1

Jul 2015

New Today: The Subtle Art of Brutality by Ryan Sayles

The Subtle Art of Brutality by Ryan Sayles

Today is the publication date for THE SUBTLE ART OF BRUTALITY, the first in a new series featuring private investigator Richard Dean Buckner by Ryan Sayles.

In his first case, a girl has gone missing. Again. But this time people are trying to kill her. Trying to burn down everything she has touched or left behind. The girl’s surrogate father feels responsible and to assuage his guilt, he hires Richard Dean Buckner, former Saint Ansgar homicide detective turned private eye to ferret her out.

Buckner was doing fine as a bare-knuckles detective for the PD until he was rendered “unserviceable” by a hit attempt. Early retirement doesn’t sit well with that type of man, half predator and half savior.

He takes the case, and from two ex-boyfriends who ruined their lives for the girl, her rapist dad, drug dealers she burned for thousands, an uncomfortable meeting at the local Incest Survivors group to whoever is setting fire to her life, Buckner is going to need all his guts, instinct and .44 Magnum to finish the job.

Because in Saint Ansgar, what doesn’t kill you only makes you wish it did.

THE SUBTLE ART OF BRUTALITY is available in trade paperback and ebook formats. For a limited time only, you can purchase the Kindle format for $1.99!

Praise for the book:

“Richard Dean Buckner is just the hero for our modern world: a righteous killer who can step outside convention and right the wrongs; and Sayles is just the writer to drive his story. This is how I like my fiction: unrelenting prose and kick-ass justice.”
— Joe Clifford, author of Lamentation

“The brutality is in the prose. Course and violent, Sayles writes like he is seeking vengeance against the world. It’s 21st century noir. Mickey Spillane on meth.”
— Tom Pitts, author of Knuckleball

“As subtle as brass knuckles to the face. Buckner is a classic and Sayles is one to watch.”
— Eric Beetner, author of Rumrunners and The Year I Died Seven Times

” … Richard Dean Buckner left me wanting more. He is a breath of fresh air in an antiques shop. A biker in a museum. A chaotic, reckless anomaly. You know I’m enjoying something when I deliberately slow down my reading pace to enjoy the novel longer. The Subtle Art of Brutality is a ridiculously strong first novel, starting the new darling of the P.I novels legacy.”
— Benoit Lelievre, blogger and reviewer at Dead End Follies

“Gut twisting detective fiction done the way it is supposed to be done. RDB makes Dirty Harry seem a little soft.”
— Todd Morr, author of Jesus Saves, Satan Invests

“The Subtle Art of Brutality is a nut busting slice of noir. All of the required hard-boiled elements are present and accounted for … ”
— Chris Leek, author of Gospel of the Bulley

“The Subtle Art of Brutality is a testosterone-and-meth cocktail, a relentless blast of tough guy intensity. 21st-century hardboiled.”
— Warren Moore, author of Broken Glass Waltzes

 

Posted in Ryan Sayles, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

30

Jun 2015

Down & Out Books To Publish NO HARD FEELINGS by Mark Coggins

Down & Out Books has announced it is publishing Mark Coggins’ sixth August Riordan mystery, NO HARD FEELINGS. The book will be released in September 2015 and be available in three formats: limited hardcover for indie bookstores, trade paperback and ebook formats.

Coggins says, “NO HARD FEELINGS is a sequel to my second novel, Vulture Capital. This time out, Riordan teams with Winnie — a determined young woman from the earlier book with a take-no-prisoners attitude — to defeat a shadowy nemesis who wants to harvest biomedical implants from her body.”

Seth Harwood, author of In Broad Daylight, calls the book, “A bang-bang thrill ride. Winnie is a female Jack Reacher.”

Down & Out Books publisher Eric Campbell adds, “I’ve personally enjoyed Mark’s earlier five books in the series and jumped at the chance to be along for the ride.”

Mark Coggins’ work has been nominated for the Shamus and the Barry crime fiction awards and selected for best of the year lists compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Detroit Free Press and Amazon.com, among others. His novels Runoff and The Big Wake-Up won the Next Generation Indie Book Award and the Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) respectively, both in the crime fiction category.

Down & Out Books, an indie-publisher based in Tampa, FL, has been serving up the best crime fiction since 2011.

To obtain a galley version (PDF, mobi, epub) for review, or to coordinate an interview with Mark, contact Christy@DownAndOutBooks.com.

Visit Mark Coggins online at http://www.markcoggins.com/.

Posted in Mark Coggins | 1 Comment

29

Jun 2015

Preview of THE SHILL by John Shepphird plus Special Pre-Order Pricing

COVER_The Shill_x1500
Down & Out Books is proud to be reissuing THE SHILL from Shamus Award winning author and writer/director of television films John Shepphird. Here’s the set up:

Struggling actress Jane Innes is seduced by a handsome new arrival in her acting class. He makes a proposition. He admits he’s a con man and needs Jane to pose as a rich, carefree heiress to fulfill her part in his intricate scam.

Would you agree? Or run the other way?

All goes as planned until Jane’s true identity threatens to surface and their scheme begins to crack at the seams.

This is the first part of a trilogy following Jane Innes through a tangled maze of deception, depravity and murder.


Trailer for THE SHILL



Praise for THE SHILL


“Sly, sexy and surprising, The Shill is a darkly comic Hollywood tale of a not-so-innocent out-of-work actress being groomed for larceny.”

– Wallace Stroby, author of The Devil’s ShareShoot the Woman Firs and Cold Shot to the Heart


Pre-Order the Kindle version for $1.99 until JULY 15


Chapter 1

Work as an actress was sparse. Jane survived by a variety of dead-end, part-time jobs. This one, working for a private investigator, paid minimum wage.

Six months ago, on a foggy morning in L.A.’s beach community of Playa Del Rey, she sat in her Nissan waiting for the subject to emerge from his apartment. Her task was to videotape the man as proof he was physically mobile without the assistance of a wheelchair or crutches. Jane worked for Tim Peduga, an ex-cop turned PI who specialized in insurance fraud.

She arrived just before dawn and found a spot across the street from the apartment. She parked in front of a modern house under construction and hoped the contractors, when they arrived, wouldn’t make her move. She could hear the rumble of jets from adjacent LAX airport in the distance.

Jane checked herself in the rearview mirror and hated what she saw. There were bags under her eyes, her forehead was breaking out and her chin looked puffy. Thirty years of age and these moments of self-doubt came more and more often now—a deep, dark depression knocking at the door.

Neighbors walked dogs past. A FedEx truck stopped down the street. She fought boredom by listening to celebrity podcasts on her iPod.

Finally the man emerged from his apartment. It was definitely the same guy from the photo she’d been given. He had shoulder-length curly black hair parted down the middle and a long, scraggly beard. She thought the only thing missing was a flowing black cloak and he could pass for Rasputin, the famed Russian mystic.

She powered the camera.

Even though the video was time stamped, she was instructed to shoot the front page of the L.A. Times first. Her boss Tim explained that a video time-stamp could be manipulated after the fact but a physical newspaper is undisputable proof. She supported the lens on the steering wheel and zoomed in.

Rasputin unlocked the door of a Toyota pickup and searched the cab before emerging with a pack of cigarettes. He smacked the pack of Marlboros on his palm and peeled back the cellophane, tossing the remnants into the wind. He produced a lighter and lit the smoke.

That’s when he noticed her.

She averted her gaze, pretended to be busy with something below the dash while still keeping the camera trained. In the LCD viewfinder she saw him walk toward her. She dropped the camera and went for the ignition. The car sputtered and stalled.

He was closing in fast.

She locked the doors.

“Excuse me,” he said angry. “What are you doing? Do I know you?”

She averted his gaze and tried to start the car again. No luck. Piece of…

He tossed the cigarette at her windshield and smacked the hood. “Were you filming me? You don’t have the right!”

She pumped the gas as the starter whined but the Nissan would not fire. Damn it!

“Give me the camera, bitch!”

What’d he call me?

Jane defiantly flipped him off. She regretted it when it only enraged him more.

Red-faced, he ran around the car and rummaged through the pile of construction refuse. He came back with a cinderblock raised over his head.

You’ve got to be kidding.

Jane ducked below the dash just before the windshield shattered. Chunks of broken glass rained down into her hair.

Over the cinderblock on her dented hood she could see him searching for something else to throw. She went for the ignition again. The car finally started with a mighty roar.

His eyes registered fear.

“Motherfucker!” she screamed. She threw it into drive and punched the gas.

Boom!

Rasputin flipped over the hood followed by the sound of his head hitting the pavement—much like a watermelon cracking open upon impact.

 

Chapter 2

Months later, dressed in frayed clown regalia, Jane performed a magic trick under the shade of a gnarled ficus tree. For the audience of children she held out an over-sized “die,” the singular term for dice she made clear to the kids, and placed it in a black lacquer miniature cabinet. She closed the two doors and tilted the box to one side before she opened the adjacent chamber.

“See, it vanished.”

She shut that door and tilted the box the other way—the children hearing a thunk as the die seemingly slid to the other half of the box. Opening the opposite door Jane said, “All gone. Show’s over. Thank you very much.”

The kids screamed in protest. They demanded she open both doors at the same time but she pretended not to understand them. When they had been teased enough, Jane opened them both. The die had disappeared.

“Not everything is as it appears,” she said.

This was the final line of her magic routine. She reached into a nearby hat and pulled out the die as if it invisibly jumped through space.

Jaws dropped in amazement. It was her best trick, Jane’s grand finale, an over-the-counter magic shop standard hailed “the sucker die box”—no sleight of hand required and the art of deception at her fingertips.

Later, as the rambunctious kids ate ice cream outside French doors, Jane packed her show away. Kneeling on a thick Persian rug in the master bedroom she paused to gaze at the antique four-post bed, its fine linen, silk pillows and a pure white duvet ironed to perfection. God, it must be nice to be this rich, to wake up in a bed like this. For a brief moment she could daydream until—

“That was great.” The woman of the house was there with purse in hand. “Thank you so much. Brady and his friends loved your act.”

Here was a woman who has everything, this tasteful house, a six-year-old boy, a family of her own. She was the lucky one who woke up every morning in this wonderful bed—obviously with a man who loved her. And worst of all, she appeared to be only a few years older.

“Two hundred dollars, right?” the woman said.

Jane nodded and continued to pack her show away. She felt deep envy, the feeling creeping up into her throat, copper to taste, bitter. She needed a drink of water but did not feel like asking. When she finally stood the woman handed her a check.

“I thought we agreed on cash,” Jane said.

“I didn’t have a chance to get to the bank. I can call my husband and have him drop by the ATM, but he won’t be back until later.”

Jane bit her lip. She needed cash. She could not wait for the stupid husband because she’d be late for class. Jane thanked the woman and took the check without glancing at the total.

Standing in the driveway, still dressed as a clown, Jane waited for her taxi.

She dug out her last thirty dollars and hoped it would be enough to get across town. Once there, she knew she could bum a ride home. This sleepy, tree-lined neighborhood north of Montana Avenue in Santa Monica was once dominated by single-story, pre-war craftsman bungalows. Jane could see that most had been torn down and replaced with two-story, imported-tile McMansions. She found the check to take a look.

No tip. Figures.

Jane wondered why the wealthiest people tipped the worst, or, as in this case, not at all. She hated having to rely on taxis but her car was in the shop again, this time a “broken timing belt,” whatever that was. She’d nicknamed her car rusty-yet-trusty Nissan, but now it was held for ransom by Yuri her mechanic for six hundred dollars plus storage charges since he’d had it so long.

Not long ago she was working for Peduga Investigations when the crazy Rasputin smashed her car’s windshield. Tim paid to replace the glass, plus a little more, and now Jane had nothing to show for it. She suspected Tim wasn’t calling her for surveillance gigs anymore because of that incident.

Being a private investigator seemed flexible enough to allow for her acting pursuits, and Jane figured she could eventually hang her own shingle when she became a licensed PI. She’d done the homework and was collecting paystubs as proof for the required hours needed to get her license.

Then last month, just after the Nissan got out of the body shop, it betrayed her. She’d had to tow it to Yuri’s and the tow alone cost her a hundred and twenty bucks.

But this job, two hundred dollars, would not liberate the Nissan. The money would go towards food, overdue rent and piles of laundry. She would revive her spent pay-as-you-go cell phone, and maybe tackle one or two of the minimum payments from the stack of final notices collecting dust. She checked her watch again. Where was that damn taxi?

Twenty minutes later, in the back of the cab, she peeled off the silly costume. Jane could feel the Arab’s eyes in the rearview mirror.

“Can you hurry, please? I’m going to be late.”

“I drive fast-as-can, lady. Don’t want speeding ticket.”

With a towel Jane wiped the clown-white off her face. She caught him peering again. She was used to men looking at her, ever since she was a teenager—eyes lingering, drinking her in.

She tried her best to ignore the cabbie, slipped on a white blouse and then removed her athletic bra underneath, a learned maneuver from doing quick-changes backstage in school plays. She stuffed her clown costume into her bag and finally dug out her sides, the script pages with her lines.

On the way to acting class, in clogged Los Angeles traffic, Jane studied her lines.

***

By the time the meter neared thirty dollars Jane still had more than a mile to go. She told the cabbie to pull over, handed him all the money and apologized for the lack of tip. She could sense his disappointment but there was nothing she could do.

Lugging her suitcase full of magic tricks, wearing a simple white blouse and wrinkled black linen slacks, Jane walked to class, sweating from the heat.

The shabby theater strip on Santa Monica Boulevard, lined with tiny ninety-nine seat theaters, was Hollywood’s equivalent to New York’s Off-Off Broadway. Under a marquee for Brecht’s “The Good Woman of Setzuan” she rushed past a strung-out prostitute. Upon closer inspection Jane saw the hooker was actually a guy in drag, quite normal for this part of town.

The class had already begun, and Jane tried to slip in unnoticed. No luck. Jeremy Sands, her acting coach whose guidance supposedly had steered a well-known student to an Oscar years ago, stopped mid-lecture.

“Well, look who’s late again,” he said.

The group of acting students seated in the first few rows eyed Jane.

“I’m sorry, Jeremy.”

“What’s that on your face?”

“What?”

“That…” he said waving his crooked finger at her, “that hideous white stuff, darling. On your face!” Jane ran her sleeve across her forehead, a hint of residual clown white smearing off.

“I…uhm. I do birthday parties,” Jane said quietly.

“I beg your pardon,” he said with flamboyance.

“I was working. As a clown.”

“A clown?”

“Sorry I’m late.”

She noticed a new student in the class, an attractive man in a black turtleneck standing in the shadows. He was staring at her. Jane felt two feet tall.

“Everyone else seemed to make it here on time,” Jeremy pointed out. “Face it, Jane, you’re always late. Are you going to be late to the audition of your life?”

Jane said nothing, anger burning. She suspected Jeremy was mad because she was months behind in tuition. She remained silent, eyes downcast. She focused on the chipped paint in the concrete floor.

Jeremy let it hang there for an uncomfortable beat. “We hope not,” he said, followed by a dramatic sigh. “Now, where were we? Heavens, I forget. It doesn’t matter. Let’s shift our energy to an improvisation exercise. Everybody participates, so please break up in pairs.”

Jane was wiping the residual clown white from her face with a Burger King napkin when he approached.

“Try using this.”

Looking up Jane found herself face-to-face with the handsome man in the turtleneck sweater offering his cloth handkerchief. Mid-forties, well-groomed, he was new to the class. She thought it strange a man carried a handkerchief in this day and age.

“Thank you,” she said, reaching for it.

“Let me,” the stranger offered. She hesitated, then Jane closed her eyes and let him dab her face. The cloth felt soft. She caught the scent of his cologne, or maybe it was aftershave, and breathed it in.

“I think I got it all.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m Cooper.”

“Jane.”

“Jane…?”

“Jane Innes.”

“Cooper Sinclaire.”

They shook hands. His grasp was firm. Something about him.

Cooper nodded towards Jeremy, “I think he likes you.”

“I don’t think so. He picks on me all the time.”

“Need a partner?”

***

After class Cooper found her, said, “I know a great place where we can get something to eat.”

“I don’t know…I have to meet a friend,” she said. This was her conditioned response, the excuse she’d often used when men hit on her.

“Cancel.”

“Maybe some other time.” She didn’t know anything about him. He was older than any of the men she’d dated before.

“You must be hungry. Just a quick bite. No big deal.”

He was so confident, so determined, and she felt uneasy. Jane caught herself twirling her hair. “Maybe next week, after class, we can get a cup of coffee or something.”

“Tonight, and I won’t take no for an answer.”

She felt her nipples alert against her thin blouse. She hoped he hadn’t noticed that she wasn’t wearing a bra, but was pretty sure he had.

 

Chapter 3

White tablecloths, delicate flowers in tiny porcelain vases—Jane and Cooper shared a quiet corner in a quaint bistro tucked away in West Hollywood.

The waiter poured a sample of red wine. Cooper nosed the glass, tasted it, then approved with a nod. The waiter distributed equally and was off.

“Tell me about you,” Cooper said, studying her.

Jane sipped and could tell it was a good bottle, not the under-five dollar twist-cap vintage she drank regularly.

“What do you want to know?”

“Let’s start with where you’re from.”

Self-consciously she began to talk. She told him about growing up in Albuquerque, an only child with a single-parent mom. She told him about the semester at the University of Colorado when she caught the acting bug, about driving her Nissan out to L. A. to try to make it as an actress. She told him about her different odd jobs. He was especially intrigued by the work she’d done for the private investigator. She told him about the recent Rasputin incident.

“I’m banking hours so I can get my own license,” she said. “You can’t make any money working for PIs. You’ve got to be your own boss and bill the hours yourself. I figure it’s a gig that will allow me the freedom and flexibility to work as an actress.”

“Are there times,” he asked, “that you impersonate people?”

“Never in person, but I’ve done it over the phone.”

He waited silently until she explained.

“Once I pretended to be a career headhunter to gather information for one of our clients, a woman attorney who practices family law.”

“Oh?”

“A deadbeat dad was skipping out on alimony and child support. They tried to garnish wages but he claimed to be unemployed. I got him to admit he was working under the table, and making a pretty good living. The phone call was recorded and he was subpoenaed to appear in court.”

“How’d you get him to spill the beans?”

“I pretended I was really interested in his spa and hot tub business. Flirted a little. Built up his ego and earned his trust, I guess.”

“How’d you do that?”

“Listened mostly. Let him brag about himself. Encouraged him. He took the bait.”

“I bet you’re good at it.”

“I guess so. I’m an actress.”

“Tell me more.”

Jane was careful not to give him too many details. The double-wide trailers she and her mother lived in, the crazy boyfriends she endured, and the fact that she never knew her father. The waiter returned and refilled her glass. She talked about how acting was her complete obsession. All else was secondary.

“I can’t seem to get a break,” she said.

“It will happen. You’re talented,” Cooper said. “You’re a lot better than everyone else in class.”

“Thank you for saying that,” she said, feeling a dash of confidence enhanced by the warming effect of the wine. “What about you? Tell me what you’ve done.”

“What I’ve done?”

“As an actor.”

“I’m really kind of new to it all,” he said. “I thought it might be fun to try because I’ve always been a ham.”

“But Jeremy doesn’t accept just anybody. You had to pass his rigorous audition process to get into the class.”

Cooper shrugged. “Sure.”

“He must have seen something in you,” she said.

“Maybe. I don’t know. It’s fun.” He gave her a playful smile. “I live to have fun. How about you?”

She met his eyes for a moment, had an idea what he meant by that. She looked away without answering, smiled to herself. There was spark and sizzle—a thousand words conveyed in one brief, mischievous moment of silence.

The waiter appeared again with a sliced baguette and duck pate. When Jane took a bite she realized this was the first thing she’d eaten all day, other than three peppermint Lifesavers. Probably why the wine had gone straight to her head.

Cooper drove Jane home that night. His sleek Jaguar made it clear he was wealthy. She liked the smell of the leather upholstery.

When they pulled up outside her shabby apartment complex Jane felt the need to make an excuse. “I lost my roommate and I’m sort of in between places right now.”

He made her feel at ease, insisted that he walk her to the front gate. When he asked to see her again Jane fumbled through her bag and gave him a business card with her picture on it, an actor’s calling card. When Jane first came to Los Angeles, two years ago, she hired a photographer who specialized in creating eight by ten head shots for budding actors. The cards were part of the package.

“Call this number, it texts me,” she explained. “I’ll call right back.”

Cooper raised his eyebrows.

“I don’t have a home phone since this place is a temporary arrangement, and I’m in between cell phones right now because the reception is so bad on this block.” The truth was Verizon had shut off her landline months ago, the heartless bastards, and there was no “talk time” credit left on her pay-as-you-go cell phone.

After an affectionate peck on the cheek, Cooper bid Jane goodnight and casually drifted off, a perfect gentleman.

Jane crawled into bed happy. She marveled how her day started out so awful but then, in the blink of an eye, turned so wonderful. For one magical evening she’d been able to forget her troubles.

She thought about him, tried to remember his scent, definitely in the mood. She imagined he was in bed next to her, and then the endless possibilities.


Pre-Order the Kindle version for $1.99 until JULY 15

Will be available as an ebook and paperback


 

 

Posted in John Shepphird | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

26

Jun 2015

Preview of THE SUBTLE ART OF BRUTALITY by Ryan Sayles plus Special Pre-Order Pricing

Subtle Art_x2700
The girl has gone missing. Again. But this time people are trying to kill her. Trying to burn down everything she has touched or left behind. The girl’s surrogate father feels responsible and to assuage his guilt, he hires Richard Dean Buckner, former Saint Ansgar homicide detective turned private eye to ferret her out.

Buckner was doing fine as a bare-knuckles detective for the PD until he was rendered “unserviceable” by a hit attempt. Early retirement doesn’t sit well with that type of man, half predator and half savior.

He takes the case, and from two ex-boyfriends who ruined their lives for the girl, her rapist dad, drug dealers she burned for thousands, an uncomfortable meeting at the local Incest Survivors group to whoever is setting fire to her life, Buckner is going to need all his guts, instinct and .44 Magnum to finish the job.

Because in Saint Ansgar, what doesn’t kill you only makes you wish it did.

 


Praise for THE SUBTLE ART OF BRUTALITY

“Richard Dean Buckner is just the hero for our modern world: a righteous killer who can step outside convention and right the wrongs; and Sayles is just the writer to drive his story. This is how I like my fiction: unrelenting prose and kick-ass justice.”

—Joe Clifford, author of Lamentation

“The brutality is in the prose. Course and violent, Sayles writes like he is seeking vengeance against the world. It’s 21st century noir. Mickey Spillane on meth.”

—Tom Pitts, author of Knuckleball

“As subtle as brass knuckles to the face. Buckner is a classic and Sayles is one to watch.”

—Eric Beetner, author of Rumrunners and Over Their Heads (with JB Kohl)

“…Richard Dean Buckner left me wanting more. He is a breath of fresh air in an antiques shop. A biker in a museum. A chaotic, reckless anomaly. You know I’m enjoying something when I deliberately slow down my reading pace to enjoy the novel longer. The Subtle Art of Brutality is a ridiculously strong first novel, starting the new darling of the P.I novels legacy.”

—Benoit Lelievre, blogger and reviewer at Dead End Follies

“Gut twisting detective fiction done the way it is supposed to be done. RDB makes Dirty Harry seem a little soft.”

—Todd Morr, author of Jesus Saves, Satan Invests

The Subtle Art of Brutality is a nut busting slice of noir. All of the required hard-boiled elements are present and accounted for…”

—Chris Leek, author of Gospel of the Bulley

The Subtle Art of Brutality is a testosterone-and-meth cocktail, a relentless blast of tough guy intensity. 21st-century hardboiled.”

—Warren Moore, author of Broken Glass Waltzes


Pre-Order the Kindle edition for $1.99 until JUNE 30


 

1

“The worst thing about a contact shot to someone else’s head is getting their brains, hair and skull fragments washed off my face.”

I cock the hammer back. He sobs harder. “If you’ve never tasted a man’s grey matter tinged with gun powder and revenge you have an inexperienced palette.”

The man is on his knees before me, facing away, hands tied behind him, crying, .44 Magnum squeezed against the back of his skull as tight as a waterproof seal.

“Then of course, you have no idea what diseases the guy might have had.” I blow smoke. It crowns his head. “But the money is good.”

Smoke drifts off my cigarette, lazy and weaving in the air. The souls of dead soldiers rising from a battlefield. I drag and watch ruined ashes flutter off the cherry-like leaves from a long-dead tree, tracing spirals through the night down to their deaths before my feet.

inter in Saint Ansgar might as well be winter in Anchorage, if Anchorage never fully woke up from a nightmare. The sun is shining, eyes are open, but every corner is razor-sharp and every shadow has gritting teeth.

Here, outside on the street, frost dances in the predawn hours like devils of ice cavorting around a fresh kill. We’re south of the river that cuts Saint Ansgar from west to east in a beltline of ice floes and estuary water. Here, in these half burnt-out urban developments, the graffiti and the chalk outlines, people know where they are by the police crime scene tape and stained concrete.

Street lamps keep vigil over the empty traffic ways. Aged guardsmen cast from ironworks during the Great Depression that have seen these streets constructed and then turned over to scum and felons. Here, outdoors, we’re alone as far as the eye can see. It must be extra cold kneeling on frigid concrete.

“Please mister…I have a wife. She’s a worrier anyways and I—you’d love her. She’s blonde and hilarious and and—oh God…my wife is gonna be wondering where I am soon and—”

“Your wife will find out from the police where you have been. Or you can tell me where she is and you can go home right now.”

“Tell you where who is? My wife? She’s at home like I—” He shuts up with a stern whack from my iron.

“Who? For Christ’s sake who?

“Alisha McDonald.” I say.

“No, no nono—”

“Yes, Francis. Her.”

“No, I had nothing to do with—”

“Missing nine weeks now.”

“No, you sonofabitchno I—”

“Alisha McDonald, age seven, sandy blonde and brown, four-foot-one, last seen—”

“Fuck you, pig, and fuck your mother I am—”

With you.

“I didn’t do nothing—”

“You went to the shopping mall—”

“I was cleared!”

“You saw her last. Before she vanished off the face of the planet.”

“I was cleared—”

“Your wife’s family lined some pockets.”

“That little girl is with somebody else—”

“Pocket lining doesn’t clear shit. Death does.”

Desperation and vindication both: “I told her stupid fucking old man I had nothing to do with that little girl! I told him as soon as I turned my back some pervert must of took her! I didn’t even wanna go to the mall! Her old man was probably banging her out himself and then hired some junkie to shut her up! That’s why he asked me to take her to the mall instead of doing it himself! A set-up! He was always dog shit like that! It’s just that the people around him never knew! He hid it well!”

Francis. Like a scorned woman crying to the police about her boyfriend hitting her.

But his next words…those he says with contempt. And worse, honesty. Flat pulse honesty: “Fuck that girl and fuck her old man for pointing the finger at me.”

I let the last bit sink into the air.

“Her old man always points the finger at me.” Like a spoiled child.

“He pointed the finger at you, Francis, because you did it.”

“I didn’t do nothing—”

I strike his head and he collapses forward. Sees stars. Hell, I can see them dance around in his eyes like old cartoons. He groans. Growls. Had enough. He rolls and leaps up. Teeth bared at me.

Unfortunately for him my left cross is just short of a freight train. I bury my fist into the crumpling structure of his mouth. His eyes roll back to white.

No time for unconsciousness.

My cigarette rubs a burnt ashen sore on his forehead. Francis wakes with a searing startle. I shake the sting of a good punch out of my hand and lift him up by the hair. I turn him to face a silhouette waiting in the shadows. His eyes adjust to the contrast of dark on darker. He sees what the shape makes out. Who the shape makes out. Recognition. Horror.

“This is how I see it played out, Francis,” I say. “The girl’s mother trusts you. And why not? She knows you. That is what you want. The girl’s dad knows better but he doesn’t tell his wife for obvious reasons. Something inside is hungry. I know the type. Maybe you’ve been starving it since the incident when you were a child.”

He looks to me. Wants to ask how I know but won’t. To ask how I know is to admit it’s real.

“Your brother told me, friend. But maybe you’ve been feeding that hunger all these years. Maybe after I gore you out, I could dig up your back yard and find a slew of four-foot tall skeletons still with some baby teeth lining their jaws.”

A single tear freshens his cheeks.

“But whatever that hunger is, you give in this time. You plan a nice day at the mall, just you and Alisha. Buy her a soda and a stuffed animal. Listen to the music in her laughter, you cast your smile down onto the little girl. Your next meal. You don’t take her home. You take her someplace else, do whatever it is you do, and stash her away for later use.

“Or you dumped her corpse.” I twist his hair until I feel clumps tear out from his scalp. More squealing. Thrashing.

“Of course you’re the prime suspect. No security videos, no eyewitnesses. Nothing to prove you didn’t do it. Your wife and her nouveau riche family bought your freedom. I checked. The D.A. owes your father-in-law a blow job or two for all the campaign money, the fund raisers. They release you on your own recognizance; shake down a few convicted child molesters to make everybody else feel good. Slowly loosen the squeeze on you. Just let it slip from memory. You get away scot-free.”

“No!” Clawing at my fingers as I tighten my grip.

“Yes. Too bad I got the case.”

The silhouette walks forward. An apparition appearing before us. The gray of the evening, the jejune bleakness of the situation paints the new man with its sad brush. Washed out, defeated and hollow. His eyes say it all: he just wants an end. No matter how ugly. Or truthful. He wants his little girl in whatever remaining condition she may be found.

Francis takes it all in. The fistful of hair shudders in my fist. Small at first, becoming more pronounced. Francis becomes afraid, ashamed. Dirty. Ignominy and consternation flood about. He becomes a little boy, he pisses his pants and has the demeanor of a beaten dog. Making progress.

“Say it.” I yank his head in a staccato whip. “I know you think you are a man, so be big. Be strong. Say it.” A whisper to his ear.

“I—I never—I mean, oh God…”

“Do not think God will intervene on your behalf,” I say, a snarl. “He might not like me per se, but I have noticed He stays out of my way. God is in all things, but not this street alley. Not tonight.”

Francis starts crying again, his shame surfacing. Our every word a cloud of ice dying in the freezing, rank air. Every one of those clouds containing secrets.

Another whisper: “Her old man told me you did something like this before.” The heat of my breath against his ear must be like a dry breeze from Hell.

Eyes light up in humiliation, the way a boy looks when somehow his mom finds out he’s been sneaking peeks at her clothing catalogs and stuck the pages together. A seedy, pervert breed of humiliation.

He begins to cry harder. Good.

Another breeze: “Little Francis, not straight, not queer, just deviant. Your mom used to babysit kids? And you were what? Fourteen?”

He does not want to hear. The truth of one’s past always has a way of haunting, and where there are ghosts hidden the guilty can only hope they go un-resurrected.

Another whisper: “You called it tickling?”

His sobbing is so messy and intense he cannot speak using vowels. Blubbering. A whole minute, his throbbing eyes focused on that silhouette. I smack him good and hard. “Speak it, before I lift you off the ground by your deranged cock.”

Through his blubbering and his punch-broken mouth he stumbles out: “Back then I—I just…I wanted to figure it out is all; I had such strong urges and no one to talk to. I didn’t mean to hurt—”

“What you meant and what you did are two different things. Your brother told me that kid’s name and I looked him up. Dead. Three years into college. Suicide. His boyfriend said he talked about getting molested as a youngster. Happy now? You did that to a kid your mom was trusted to babysit and you barely escaped with a hair on your ass. And now, all grown up, decades later, and this.”

Our eyes meet. “Alisha McDonald.”

My gun goes to his forehead, plugging into the round wet cigarette burn. “Where is she?”

He stares at the silhouette in the shadows as it grows tense, antsy. Agony.

“Or,” I ask, “did her old man really bang out his eight-year-old, kill her and frame you for it?”

In the shadows Kenneth McDonald cries like a lost soul who has now just realized he is in Hell, and the concept of permanence brings with it a new definition. His child molester brother accusing him of fucking his own kid.

Francis McDonald. One of the thousands of reasons God blessed me with brutality.

“Oh…” Gun to his head. I can hear his diseased heart break. Exposed. Family ties severed. Some things you cannot take back. He stares at his brother in the shadows, crying himself.

At last: “Ken, please forgive me,” he says. Defeated. This is where I want to be. A broken man will squawk. Confess. Plead. Beg and negotiate.

Alisha’s father walks into the buzzing light from the street lamp overhead to face his sibling.

“Where is my little baby?” Ken McDonald asks. His voice quiet, grave and betrayed.

“Forgive me, please.”

“I don’t know what to forgive you for.”

“Forgive me and I’ll tell you. I promise.”

Ken looks on as Francis mumbles something about giving in to temptation. The words come out through wet tears and all-consuming fear, like the speech itself was something hiding from predators and is poking out to see if the coast is clear.

Ken, so softly: “When we were kids you promised that if I lied to Mom about what happened you’d never do it again. How do I know you won’t lie again?”

“Christie knows. She’ll—”

“My own sister-in-law knows? She knows what you did?”

“Yes, but—”

“And she has said nothing?”

“To protect her family name! They have an image! Jesus, Ken! You know that! She caught me burying Alisha—” He cuts off, swift and permanent as the gallows.

Burying. It destroys Ken. His little girl. I know he had expected to never have his baby again, but the finality, the reality, is never the release people think it is.

I’m so sorry.” Blabbers. “I just—I just—I’ve had to sleep on the couch ever since she caught me and she broke all my things and she was screaming about forcing me into therapy or chemical castration and—”

Shut up. You. Shut. Up. Now.” No longer his brother. It’s in his eyes. Their family name is the same but from two different levels in Hell now. He croaks out the words like they are sand and he is underwater. The cold distance, the irrevocability of this godless situation creeping in his voice.

The soulless countenance of Ken McDonald changes. His demeanor changes. Becomes alien.  Gone cold now. Never fear a man more than when his callousness emerges and you didn’t see it coming.

I squeeze the gun tighter against Francis. “Where?”

“Promise my forgiveness,” the pervert says, so low the dirt hears him better than we do.

After a breath as long as God’s, after he can retrieve his voice since hearing the word burying, Alisha’s father speaks. He does not look up.

“I forgive you for your sins against—” but he cannot finish.

“Thank you.” Such relief.

“Where?” I say. The only word I can insert into this gunpoint conversation.

“Under the new herb garden we planted. The marigolds mark her headstone.”

Ken starts to cry. But he bares his teeth as well.

So desperate now, rooting for mercy anywhere it may be dug up: “She loved marigolds, right? I thought they’d be a sweet gesture, a nice thing for Alisha—”

You don’t speak her name. Ever,” Ken says through teeth that must be carnivorous now.

I don’t want to ask if they have cooked with those herbs. If they have trimmed the flowers and put them in a vase on their kitchen table.

A diseased man in Francis. A terrible accomplice wearing the mask of a soulmate in his wife. Their own niece, entombed unceremoniously in their yard. Hidden. Cast off.

How many other children? I make a note to look up his previous addresses.

“Let me go now,” the molester asks. “Let me go. I did my part here…”

Ken looks with a galvanized fury. It makes my heart warm.

“Alisha sends her best.” An arctic tone. “You are not my brother. I want you to hear that from my mouth. I will cut your name in two.

I will cut your name in two.”

He turns around and begins to walk away from us, bathing in the shadows that line this neighborhood. “You’ll understand that when I said I forgave you, I lied.”

Alisha McDonald’s broken father strides away from us to go unearth his dead child to give her some dignity. I told Ken as soon as he hired me the answers would come, but not without a price.

Ken steps up and off the street, past the lights and into the gloom and darkness. But then he stops. Stands bolt still.

All that emerging callousness doing its work. Ken doesn’t fight it; just welcomes it. It’s armor. The best kind. Transforms his core just past the edge of shadow where the light cannot reach him.

Eventually Ken turns back towards us. Walks forward from the shadows a different man. Just like that. Flashes of his little girl and whatever horrors his mind played for him, flashes of his kid brother and the sins Ken committed to protect Francis, coming back now to stab him in the back. Betrayal lodges deep. Past bone and into the soul.

The decision Ken has just made, bathed in the ink from a night here in country that God has overlooked, he becomes someone else. Something else.

He walks up, holds out his hand. Now we’re talking.

I pull a drop gun I took from a gang-banger months back. He didn’t need it anymore; he was quite dead. The drop gun goes to Ken’s open palm, then it goes to Francis’s head and my .44 doesn’t have to worry about being traced.

A gunshot later and I am heading home to wash the brains off of my face. Contact shots are bad about that kind of thing.

 

2

 

My name is Richard Dean Buckner.

People call me either Richard or Mr. Buckner. No one calls me Dick.

No one.

 

3

 

An overflowing ashtray.

The air is blue with so much smoke. I crush another butt into the glass dish after using it to light a new cigarette. Two old, yellowing cigarette carcasses shift in the pile like demolition rubble. They almost cause a landslide. I drag deeply, exhaling through my nose like a raging bull snorting heat into a crisp morning.

I rub my neck where several years ago I was assaulted with a hypodermic needle loaded with a lethal dose of the Big Fry. Hit attempt. To kill an elephant you have to hit it with a missile. I guess I’m something more than a typical elephant because the missile failed. Not without cost, though.

The PD called me unserviceable. I think that bitch Flemming picked the word on purpose. The PD retired me unceremoniously with a pension check just big enough to legally argue they gave me something.

Black and white photographs are scattered across my desk and ink blots like square leaves falling off a zebra tree.

My desk’s far edge is lined with origami. Two swans, with their flat heads and triangle beaks, tread water on the wooden surface and swim without moving an inch. A sailboat with so many imperfect folds it would do better as an anchor. It sails in the empty sea along my desk, prow facing the swan, invisible waves rolling and hitching it to nowhere. A paper rose, a table with two chairs. A whale. All so imperfect.

A half-dead fan spins above me. Two dim bulbs dangle from it, casting light in search beacon fashion. It, being tossed around by the fan’s wobbly spinning, jumps and bobs and dives and swings, throwing light here and there and back here again. Trying to read by the lone fan’s erratic behavior gives me headaches.

The blinds behind me are drawn loosely, allowing grated, wedge-on-top-of-wedge blocks of waning sunlight to fall over the room. A fake plant rises out of a cheap, wicker pot and leans into the corner; a drunk using the wall to hold himself up while he searches for his next step.

I blow smoke rings up at the fan and watch them get thrown about and torn into thousands of small gray strips. I rub my face and sandpaper lining my jaw grits under one palm.

The phone rings.

“Hello?”

“Richard?”

“Hello, Abe.” Abe Baldwin is my main man. He is a terrible trial lawyer who has a crusader complex bigger than a movie star’s ego. He spent a few years in the city’s district attorney’s office, but he is horrible at research and even worse at arguing. The sign of a good cook is if they are fat. If Abe were as bad a cook as he is a lawyer, we would have lost him a long time ago.

The writing on my office door says I’m a private investigator. In between jobs for Abe I take pictures of rich housewives banging the pool boy, rich husbands banging the maids, dirty cops taking pay-offs, blah blah blah. The usual, makes-ends-meet fare. There’s plenty to go around.

Abe will call me with a special case every now and then, and I look into it for him. He called me a few weeks ago about Ken McDonald and his daughter.

“How did it go?” Abe asks.

I sip my bourbon and coffee and say, “His brother did it.”

“Francis? He confessed?”

“Yes.”

Abe sighs with relief. “Good. Because Ken McDonald went to his brother’s house last night. He made a huge scene. Cops and media huge. Smacked around his sister-in-law.”

“I saw on TV.”

Abe keeps on anyways. “Fucked that house up like he was a bull on ’roids. He pummeled every square inch of that house.”

TV had some on this morning’s broadcast.

“Dug up his kid,” Abe said.

“Saw it.”

“They’ll be looking for Francis, you know.”

“Yeah, I know. Dubberly was the investigator on that one?”

“Yes.”

Detective Mickey Dubberly is a fat, shining example of the police department’s inability at quality screening. Dubberly is about as dirty as a cockroach trudging through pig shit, and what I really need to do is just plug him full of lead.

The one thing about scum cops: if they are given a way out that doesn’t involve something ugly, they’ll take it. No doubt Dubberly, the head detective on the missing Alisha McDonald case, was the one taking the biggest cut from the pervert’s in-laws.

“Dubberly can be dealt with easy enough,” I say without a true worry.

“You think?”

“Yes. Dubberly is a squirmer. He’ll run straight to the captain and blabber on and on about how he always thought Francis was the real threat…blah blah blah. He’ll pass the buck.”

“What if they find Francis’s corpse?”

“They’ll see that his brother shot him. If Kevin hasn’t already confessed everything.”

“Do you think McDonald will talk?” Abe. Cautious. Worried about his ass.

“Not about us.”

“You sure?”

“We shook hands on it if that means anything anymore. He said what he wanted. He got it. He pulled the trigger. I doubt he’ll talk.” Abe breathes in and out from his nose. I know Abe; that’s his nervous breathing.

“But, just in case I took the usual precautions.” Cash. No paper trail. No phone records. “All he could prove is he called you for help. When we first met he told me he spoke to several lawyers that day. You’ll be lost in the shuffle. Deny. Stick to it. You’re out of any real trouble.”

“Just deny it? What about the girl’s body? How’d he find it then?”

“Just because the police let go of their prime suspect doesn’t mean McDonald had to let go of his as well. Alisha was last seen with Francis. The brand-new garden planted the same time his kid disappeared, probably as big as a child’s coffin. McDonald also knew his brother had hurt another kid. It all adds up to him solving this on his own.”

“I hope so. I don’t need that kind of heat right now.”

“Pussy.”

“You know, I like that—” and I can’t hear Abe’s words because the colors smear in my mind, running like a fresh oil painting drenched in water. Red cascades down and peels away to an orange which becomes yellow before my brain seizes for just a moment and I know my teeth grit so hard it’s audible. The last runner of liquid horror traces down across my vision and my skull clears up.

Just like that. Why I am unserviceable. Big Fry Smear.

My voice groggy and choked up: “I said I’d find his kid, not have his back later.”

Abe said, “Anyways, I sent a guy your way. Friend of a friend of a friend.”

“You don’t have friends, Abe.”

“My wife keeps saying that. Friend of a friend of a friend of a former client. He needs you to look up his daughter.”

“Great. Another father-daughter case. Is he legit?”

“Sure he is. Why not?”

I installed a light outside my office door for one reason: security. There is a panel of frosted glass in my door, shoulder height. The light limns anyone who shows up knocking, and the glass frames their heads in case I answer the door with a gunshot.

It’s been known to happen.

A man’s silhouette appears from the murky grayness of the textured glass and I say to Abe: “I’ll call you back.”

Abe says something about having me over for dinner, and before I can tell him I won’t eat the slop his English-immigrant wife cooks, my doorknob turns.

The man walks in unannounced. That will get you killed around here. He looks distinguished by way of his IQ or academic accomplishments. He is rather unremarkable, but the snooty air about him immediately puts a bad taste in my mouth. I do not like being around people who think they are better than me. I do not like it at all, Sam I am.

Under the desk, my revolver comes out and aims in his direction. If he knows he’s covered by a large bore revolver he doesn’t act like it. My eyes go to his hands. Without patience: “You knock first.”

“I do apologize, sir.”

“Don’t apologize.” I say. “Knock.”

“Mr. Buckner, may I call you Richard?” He says, smoothing the front of his suit jacket.

I say nothing. After an uncomfortable minute he takes the hint, nods like a spoiled child and walks back out my door. He stands there for a second, clearly not used to bending to someone else’s will. Knocks. Hard.

“Come in.” I say, pleasantly enough. I do not re-holster my iron.

Irritated: “Mr. Buckner, how are you?”

“Oh, just fine. What were you saying?”

“Well, I—” He stares at my swans and sail boat. “Your origami are…unique.”

“The good ones are at home.”

“Your mother must be very proud of you.”

“Even if she were alive I wouldn’t give a shit.”

“Hmmm. Well, anyways.” He looks around. Smoothes his jacket again. “Is it Mr. Buckner or Richard?”

“Depends on who’s addressing me.”

“A paying client?”

“Well, anything but Dick. Do not call me Dick.”

“Understood. I am Dr. Windslow, and I need you to find a certain young lady for me.”

“Your daughter?”

An uncomfortable chuckle. Then, “Absolutely not. As it were she was a…mistress.”

“Abe send you over?”

“No. I don’t know an Abe.”

“Why do you want the mistress?”

His eyes slink about. Serpent. His throat clicks at the speed of light. He needs to think of something. If he is going to lie he should have concocted it before now.

“To rekindle, I suppose.”

“Marriage not work out?”

Incredulous: “I beg your pardon, but you cannot seriously—”

“Yes or no. Has your marriage failed?”

“Why must you assume I am married? I have no wedding band. I am not fat as so many married men are. I—”

“Only a married man has a ‘mistress.’ Single men have girls, girlfriends, bitches, baby mamas. A distinguished man like you uses the correct label for everything. It would be an insult to your superior self-perception to do otherwise.”

Angry. Seen-through.

“Very well. My marriage has ended. Quite abruptly.”

“Because of your affairs?”

“None of your business.”

So yes.

“And now you want to rekindle an extramarital affair? Correct? Why did the affair end in the first place? Wife find out?”

“The wife and I spent our time in therapy trying to salvage our marriage. Now it is over and I want my old girlfriend back.”

His throat clicks again. A tell.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why do you want her back?”

“So we may continue, as I stated earlier.”

“Does she want to be found?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, why do you need a private detective to find a woman whom you think will still want to be with you? If she’s that in to you she shouldn’t be hard to find.”

“Will you take the case or not?” Cut to the chase.

“What’s her name?”

“Denise Carmine. White female, age thirty-two. Brown and blue. Five-foot-eight, one hundred and thirtyish. Divorced, no children. Drives a white Toyota sedan.”

Impressive. And dangerous.

I lean forward, one elbow on the desk. That hand I rest my chin into, the other hand still holds him unwitting, inches from death. “Let me tell you about a common theme running through my office.”

“Very well.” Impatient red rising up his collar. The throat clicks. I already know my answer.

“I need to make this clear. Dudes come in here asking me to find the ex-girlfriends they’ve been hiding from their wives. It happens. For some reason man will court a woman, spend money on her, make plans with her, propose to her, marry her, live with her, make children with her, and then cheat on her and risk everything. Much like yourself.

“Some of these guys get away with it. Some don’t. But they all hide their affairs. Some want to hide them deeper than others. Those are usually the guys who have something to lose and they decide that whatever it is, they don’t want to lose it. So they come in here and hire me to find these girls.

“Once I found a married dude’s mistress. I told the guy where she was. He left my office, went to her place and beat the fuck out of her for talking about their affair in a bar.”

Dr. Windslow begins to shake his head in denial.

“So this mistress, it’d been few years since porking this married dude. She got drunk in Steamy’s Pub and blabbed that she slept with a guy who had a membership to some country club. I’m sure she bragged about him, said his name, the whole nine yards. The married dude must have had a friend in the bar, because it got back to him. How, I have no idea. Don’t care. She needed four reconstructive surgeries afterwards. I don’t know what she looked like before. But now, wherever in the world she goes she’s the ugliest thing walking down the street.

“I guess the married dude thought there was a quiet understanding that the mistress was not aware of. The affair was a secret, and she wasn’t being secret anymore.”

Dr. Windslow still shakes his head, but as an act. A knee-jerk response. No real reason behind it. Another tell.

Our eyes meet, mine dig into his. “No. I will not take your case.” Firm. Stolid. “But I will be keeping an eye on you. If Denise Carmine, white female, age thirty-two, brown and blue, five-foot-eight, one hundred and thirtyish, divorced, no children, drives a white Toyota sedan turns up beaten or dead, I’ll remember you.”

The good Dr. Windslow smoothes his jacket again and looks very uncomfortable. I should kill him now and spare Denise Carmine the looming threat.

I do not hunt women for angry, jealous men.

“You are mistaken about me, Mr. Buckner. But I can see there is no turning back from this point—you believe my motives are soiled—so I bid you farewell.”

I cock the hammer. He takes notice.

“I will be keeping an eye on you.”

His throat clicks again, but this time because he is swallowing hard.

“I do not sleep. And I see everything.”

He walks out.

I do not hunt women for angry, jealous men.

 


Pre-Order the Kindle edition for $1.99 until JUNE 30

Will be available as an ebook and paperback


 

 

Posted in Ryan Sayles | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

19

May 2015

June Pre-Orders – Don’t Miss Out!

June 1, 2015 sees the launch of 4 new books from Down & Out Books.  They are 1) LADIES NIGHT: Sisters In Crime/LA 2015 Anthology edited by Naomi Hirahara, Kate Thornton and Jeri Westerson, 2) OVER THEIR HEADS by JB Kohl & Eric Beetner, 3) RULES OF HONOR by Matt Hilton and 4) TALES FROM THE BLUE LINE by Rob Riley.


 

Sistersx750LADIES NIGHT: Sisters in Crime/LA 2015 Anthology

From Valley Girls to Valley of the Dolls, the L.A. Woman has captured our imagination and redefined the fairer sex. CJ Parker is our lifeguard, Lucy Arnaz, our studio executive, Angelyne, our reality star, and the Black Dahlia, our murder victim. L.A. neighborhoods have spawned the Beverly Hills housewife, the Hollywood starlet, the Van Nuys dominatrix, the Santa Monica Surf Betty and the Manson girls, to name a few.

LADIES’ NIGHT, an anthology by Sisters in Crime Los Angeles, includes stories by Julie G. Beers, Julie Brayton, Sarah M. Chen, Arthur Coburn, L.H. Dillman, Bengte Evenson, Cyndra Gernet, Andrew Jetarski, Micheal Kelly, Susan Kosar-Beery, Jude McGee, Gigi Pandian and Wendall Thomas.

The anthology is edited by Naomi Hirahara, Kate Thornton and Jeri Westerson.  Award winning L.A. crime novelist Denise Hamilton wrote the introduction.

Pre-Order for $2.99 on the Kindle | Nook and Trade Paperback available after June 1


 

OTHx750OVER THEIR HEADS by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner

The drugs are missing and four lives are about to collide.

Clyde just wanted to make a little extra cash on the side to raise his new baby. Now his life and the lives of his wife and newborn daughter are in jeopardy.

Brent just wanted to do his job and be left alone. Now he’s in a race against time for his life.

Sean just wanted to escape the crime he committed in Detroit. Now he’s stumbled into another. The money he embezzled is nothing compared the load of narcotics that fell into his lap.

And Skeeter? Well, Skeeter wants the drugs back, and he’ll use any means necessary to get them.

When these four are let loose on a mad scramble to locate the drugs, they cut a path of mayhem and bloodshed across Virginia. Inept would-be criminals clash with ruthless drug dealers in a violent weekend where no one is safe.

The only certainty: Everyone is in over their heads.

Pre-Order for $1.49 on the Kindle | Trade Paperback available after June 1


 

ROHx1500RULES OF HONOR by Matt Hilton

When Rink’s father is murdered, Joe Hunter vows to help his friend avenge his brutal death. Rink’s mother Yukiko isn’t talking, her silence governed by the Bushido tradition of giri, or moral obligation. But other people known to Yukiko are also dying, all due to a shameful secret from their past that Hunter must uncover if he hopes to end the murders. To do that rules must be broken, and Hunter doesn’t care what he must break to stop the killer.

Pre-Order for $2.99 on the Kindle | Trade Paperback available after June 1

 

 


 

BLUELINEx750TALES FROM THE BLUE LINE by Rob Riley

Tales from the Blue Line by Rob Riley is the first in a new series of “Crimespree Magazine Presents.” This is a compilation of twenty-nine separate police investigations conducted by Rob Riley and his partners, while they were Milwaukee Police officers. Riley was sworn in as a police officer in 1971 and retired as a detective in 2001. His career was unique even from the beginning, when with only a few months on the job he was recruited to be an undercover narcotics officer. After seven extremely intense years undercover and one year in uniform, Riley was promoted to the rank of detective where he spent the rest of his career.

From purchasing illegal drugs from people on the streets to executing nearly a hundred search warrants, his time in the Narcotics Squad seemed like more than a lifetime of police experiences. Twenty-two years as a major crimes detective, Riley connected with high ranking officials in the District Attorney’s office, as well as some of the most highly regarded defense attorney’s in the country. He was a private investigator for two years after his retirement.

Pre-Order for $1.49 on the Kindle | Trade Paperback available after June 1

 

Posted in Eric Beetner, JB Kohl, Matt Hilton, Rob Riley, Sisters in Crime/LA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on June Pre-Orders – Don’t Miss Out!

18

May 2015

Crimespree Magazine #59 available for your eReader!

cover59Issue 59 is jammed full of interviews…Eight of them in all! The feature interview is with Dana Cameron and conducted by the Crimespree Crew. Elise Cooper provides two Q&As with David Baldacci and Tony Schumacher. Jon Jordan catches up with JD Rhoades and Alan Finn. Kate Malmon speaks with Kristi Belcamino while Michael Barson talks with Phillip Kerr. As if that wasn’t enough, Dan Malmon catches up with Dave White.

Issue 59 delivers two pieces of fiction this go around: Bryan VanMeter and Alex Mattingly. Jimmy Palmiotti writes about the sexiest noir while Karin Salvalaggio give the 4-1-1 on her five music influences.

The usual suspects here as well:  Reed Farrel Coleman, Amy Alessio and Ayo Onatade. Frank De Blase is back in action this issue. Also, Jeremy Lynch’s Eye on Hollywood, Buzzbin, Book Reviews, Crimespree on Comics and Cooking with Crimespree appear as well.


Editions:  Kindle | Nook


 

Posted in Crimespree Magazine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Crimespree Magazine #59 available for your eReader!

14

May 2015

Preview of RULES OF HONOR by Matt Hilton with a Limited Time Pre-Order Price

ROHx1500

 

When Rink’s father is murdered, Joe Hunter vows to help his friend avenge his brutal death. Rink’s mother Yukiko isn’t talking, her silence governed by the Bushido tradition of giri, or moral obligation. But other people known to Yukiko are also dying, all due to a shameful secret from their past that Hunter must uncover if he hopes to end the murders. To do that rules must be broken, and Hunter doesn’t care what he must break to stop the killer.

 

 

 


Praise for RULES OF HONOR

“The action scenes are immaculately described…and even the shades of grey are murkier than ever. An excellent starting point to the dark and dangerous world of Joe Hunter.”

—crimereview.co.uk

“A rip-snorting novel which is fast paced, exciting and yet self-aware enough to address its own belief system.”

—Graham Smith, author of Snatched From Home

“…Hilton drives pace faster than The Stig…”

—crimesquad.com

 

“Sharp and hard hitting…Matt doesn’t allow himself to get complacent, but continually delves deeper into the psyche of Joe…Fast-paced, action-filled and completely addictive, Matt shows his continuing maturity as a writer with an exhilarating ride that still maintains humour and wit.”

—www.shotsmag.co.uk


Pre-Order the Kindle edition for $2.99 until June 1, 2015


Chapter 1

‘Stay in bed, I’m going to take a look.’

‘I’ll phone the police.’

‘No. Just wait until I check things out. It was maybe just the wind.’

‘That wasn’t the wind, Andrew.’

‘Maybe not, but it’s too early to call the police. Just wait and I’ll go see. If I’m not back in two minutes, call then.’

The woman watched her husband pull a robe over his bulky shoulders, then move for the closet in their bedroom. He opened the door and reached for the top shelf, from which he retrieved a locked box. Inside the box was a relic of her husband’s past. He glanced at her briefly, an apologetic look, but then withdrew the gun that winked dully in the lamplight. Inside the box was a rapid loader, and Andrew fed the six bullets into the gun with precision. Done, he looked at his wife again.

‘It’s only a precaution,’ he whispered, closing the cylinder and latching it tight.

‘Be careful…’

His wife had switched on the bedside lamp, but the rest of the house was in darkness. As he eased open the door and peered into the upstairs hall he pressed his body close to the opening to stop light spill. He paused there a moment, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dark. Then he slipped out into the hall, surprisingly agile for a man of his advanced years. Andrew was a septuagenarian but looking at him most would guess he was at least ten years younger. His height had barely been touched by the years, and he still had the broad shoulders and heavy arms of his youth. His knees bothered him these days, but not now while a bubble of adrenalin coursed through his frame. He went along the hall with the gun held close to his side. He didn’t concern himself with the guest bedrooms or the bathroom because the sound that had woken them had definitely come from below in the living room.

Recently there had been a spate of burglaries in the neighbourhood, the cops putting down the breaking and entries to drug addicts looking for cash, credit cards and items easily pawned. Andrew and his wife, though they weren’t rich, were wealthy enough to attract the attention of a sneak thief. That angered Andrew: he’d worked hard all of his life, even put his safety on the line, to make an easy retirement for him and his wife. No sneak thief was going to take anything from them.

A lifetime ago he’d fought in Korea, had survived the worst that war could throw at him, and for decades afterwards had striven to be the same soldier. He had failed to protect his girl child, who’d succumbed through illness, and one boy following suit with a military career had been killed in the line of duty. So now he was more determined than ever that he would not fail his wife and allow some punk to invade their home and take their lives’ worth. He was old but he’d lost none of his military acumen and thought himself more than equal to a drug-addled thief.

From the head of the landing he peered down the stairs.

Moonlight flooded the vestibule at the bottom, a skewed oblong cast from the window in the front door stretching across the floor. Within the light grey shadows danced, but Andrew recognised them as the trees in his garden dancing to the breeze. He took the stairs one at a time, avoiding the third step down that was prone to squeak under his weight. As he descended the stairs he looked for the blinking red light on the alarm box on the hall wall, but it was steady. Whoever had found a way inside was clever enough to dismantle the alarm. Or they knew the code and had turned it off. There was only one other person who knew the code, but he wasn’t prone to dropping in uninvited like this in the dead of night. Alone the sound they’d heard wasn’t proof that an invader was in their house, but the dead alarm now solidified it. Andrew considered going back upstairs and telling his wife to telephone the police immediately, but something halted him. Pride. Foolish pride perhaps, but he wasn’t the type to run from danger.

Some would have been tempted to call out a challenge, but Andrew knew that it would be a mistake. A desperate drug addict might run for it, but then if Andrew had managed to corner him then his desperation might turn violent. Better that he initiated any beating than the other way around. He went down the stairs, paused to check the alarm box and saw that the guts of it had been teased open and a wire clipped onto the exposed workings to form a loop in the system. The alarm had been negated, but the automatic signal to his service provider would not have kicked in, as it would if the wires had been merely torn out. If he’d stopped to think for a moment he’d have realised that it was too sophisticated a method for an addict only intent on his next fix. But he wasn’t thinking he was reacting. Threat demanded action.

He glanced once towards the kitchen but discarded it: a thief would go for the living room where the possibility of rich pickings was greater. He moved along the short hallway and saw that the door to the sitting room was ajar. Always conscious about home safety, fire and smoke being the worst threat to sleeping inhabitants, he was always careful to turn off electrical appliances and to close doors tight. He had got it down to a bedtime routine and knew he’d closed that door tightly, as he did every night. He paused there listening. He thought he heard a soft footfall, but it came from above, probably his wife. Placing a fingertip to the door, he teased it inward, the revolver held steady against his hip. Then, without warning he shoved the door hard and stepped quickly into the room, sweeping the familiar space for anything alien.

There was nobody to be seen.

If not for the jerry-rigged alarm he’d have thought he’d been mistaken, that the noise that woke him was nothing but wind throwing the garden furniture around the yard. He wondered if the burglar had heard him as he’d risen and had made himself scarce. But in the next instant he knew that he was wrong.

A cold metallic tickle behind his right ear made him halt.

‘You know what that is, don’t you, old man?’

Andrew nodded slightly, a minute movement because he didn’t know how hair-triggered the gun pressed to his skull was.

‘Mine’s bigger than yours,’ whispered the voice over his shoulder. ‘I suggest you drop that old revolver and kick it back to me.’

‘Okay, son, take it easy now.’ Andrew lifted the revolver and flicked the latch to open the swing-out cylinder. He rattled the gun and allowed the shells to tumble out and clatter on the hardwood floor.

‘Not good enough.’ A fist was jabbed into Andrew’s back, directly above his left kidney. Pain flared through the old man, sending a white flash across his vision. ‘Now, as I said first time, put down the gun and kick it back to me.’

‘It’s useless,’ Andrew said, desperate not to relinquish the weapon having placed some spare rounds in his robe pocket.

‘Is it?’ The man clubbed Andrew across the back of his head and sent him sprawling into the living room.

As he fell the revolver was knocked from Andrew’s hand. In the seconds afterwards it didn’t matter because he used both hands to cover the split in his scalp. ‘Son of a bitch.’

‘You see,’ the man said. ‘Even an empty gun can be a good weapon.’ He levelled his semi-automatic handgun on Andrew’s chest. ‘Not that mine’s empty.’

Andrew struggled up to a seated position, grabbing at a settee for support. He could feel blood trickling through his hair. He looked up at the man, squinting to try to make sense of the face.

‘Who the hell are you? What do you want?’

One thing Andrew was sure about: this was no addict looking for a quick payday. The man was large and solidly built, dressed in black jeans, black jacket and a black baseball cap. Backlit by the meagre moonlight in the hall he looked like a living silhouette.

‘If I answered your first question, you’d probably guess the second.’

‘If you’re after money, you’ve come to the wrong place. You’d be better off…’

‘I’m not here for money.’

‘That’s good, son, because I’m old and haven’t worked in years, I don’t have much to get by on.’

‘Save it,’ said the man. ‘You’re wasting your time trying to make conversation. I know what you’re trying to do: humanize yourself in my eyes, making me think twice about doing you harm. You’re wasting the few breaths you have left.’

Andrew was thinking clearer now and studied his surroundings for a way out of this. He didn’t like what the man had just said, it sounded like he had only one agenda. No way was Andrew going to sit on his ass and offer his would-be killer an easy ride. He thought of his wife upstairs and knew that she’d be next, but not if he did enough to alert her to the danger, and slowed the bastard down. He looked for something to use as a weapon.

‘Don’t even think about it.’

Andrew returned his gaze to the man. He’d stepped inside the room and was looming over Andrew. The gun was held steadily, the barrel aimed directly at Andrew’s face. ‘I want you to know why I’m here, why I’m about to kill you. It’d be a shame if I had to put a bullet through your skull before I showed you this.’

From his jacket pocket the man took out a cell phone. He’d readied it beforehand, and he held out the glowing screen so that Andrew could see the photograph on the screen. Andrew screwed his eyes to help focus the picture and saw that in fact it was a photograph taken from one much older. The image was of a man in uniform, sepia in colour. It was many decades since Andrew had seen that face but he recognised it and knew who this man might be.

‘Who is it?’ Andrew tried, but he knew the man recognised the lie.

‘You don’t remember? Well that’s a shame, because he’s waiting to greet you in hell.’

The man’s voice had risen in pitch and volume, and Andrew knew that the rest of his life could be counted in seconds. He coiled himself, ready to call out, to fight back, to do something.

Andrew squirmed round so that he was partly side-on to the man. To anyone uninitiated to violence it might seem that the old man was frightened and trying to make himself a smaller target. ‘You do know what he did?’

‘Oh, so you’re admitting that you know him now?’ The man put the phone away and from his pocket took out a long tubular object. Andrew recognised it as a sound suppressor. It was both a bad and good sign. It meant that the man was not a first time killer and had come prepared, but also that he did not want to raise an alarm by firing indiscriminately.

‘He deserved everything he got,’ Andrew said.

‘No one deserved that!’ The man screwed the suppressor onto the barrel of his gun with a few practiced twists. He did it blindly, but couldn’t deny the natural reaction to glance at it once, to make sure he’d secured it correctly. It was only a brief second of inattention, but Andrew took advantage of it.

From his side-on position he could chamber his left leg, and he shot it out, aiming with his bare heel at the man’s shin. Better that he aim for the knee, but he didn’t have the range. His heel struck bone, at the same time as he swung his other foot to hook behind the man’s ankle. Andrew scissored his legs. An untrained man would have been upended, giving Andrew time to swarm on top of him and to snatch away the gun. Unfortunately this man had come with violence in mind, and though he was staggered, he was agile enough that he was able to disengage his trapped leg and to hop aside…bringing round the gun.

‘No!’

Andrew’s yell wasn’t out of fear of the bullet destined for him.

A slight figure had appeared as a shadow behind the man, one arm raised in the air. With all of her strength his wife brought down a plant pot she’d lifted off a hallway dresser. The man had somehow felt her presence behind him and was already turning. The plant pot struck him on the shoulder, but it was nothing to the man. He continued his turn and swung with the barrel of the gun, striking the woman across the side of her skull. She hit the floor quicker than the falling plant pot, which shattered in a way that Andrew feared her skull had. The man gave one disdainful look at the woman before turning his attention back to Andrew.

He took a step back. Andrew had come up from the floor much faster than a man of his age should have been able.

‘Bastard!’ Andrew came at him with animal ferocity, throwing two solid punches at the man’s chest, but both fell short. ‘If you’ve killed her I’ll—’

The man shot him: three rapid bullets to the chest.

Andrew staggered at each impact.

This time you’ll do nothing,’ the man sneered.

Andrew collapsed to the floor, jammed in the doorway. He didn’t look at the man now, but at his wife. She lay on her side; her head cradled under one arm. He could barely see the rise and fall of her shoulder as it rode each breath.

‘Please,’ he moaned. ‘Take me, but don’t harm my wife.’

The man snorted.

‘Why not? It’s your lying wife’s fault it came to this.’

He shot Andrew again, this time in the head.

 

Chapter 2

It was misty in San Francisco.

The mist was nothing unusual, because it was a regular occurrence in the bay area. Something to do with the humidity coming in from the Pacific and meeting the cool air sweeping out from the U.S. landmass, or vice versa. Whatever the phenomenon, it had coalesced into low-lying clouds. Today it had formed out on the water, a huge embankment that had followed the shorelines, obscuring from view the world famous Golden Gate Bridge before pushing in to shroud Alcatraz and on to similarly veil the Bay Bridge. Above the mist I could still make out the tallest points of the Bay Bridge, against the backdrop of a starry sky. The thrum of traffic over the bridge was muted, a background accompaniment only. On the Embarcadero traffic was light, and none of the famous cable cars were in sight. Pedestrians were few as well, but there were street people camped out next to a large fountain that looked as if it had been erected using the leftover concrete from an overpass. Most of the street people were tucked under sleeping bags, shopping trolleys piled with their belongings forming wind breaks behind them. One of the homeless guys was an early riser like me, and he was rooting through some boxes outside a pizza shop. He had shuffled past a minute earlier without noticing me, which went a long way to prove my disguise was working.

I was wearing a thick parka jacket picked up from a military surplus store, plus jeans and a pair of boots that looked like they’d seen a thousand miles, and a wool cap pulled down around my ears. I’d gone unshaven for three days. To complete my disguise I’d rooted around in an open Dumpster and allowed the stink to percolate. I was sure that no one but another hobo would come within ten feet of me from choice.

It was very early, an hour or two before dawn, but I wasn’t feeling it. I’d only flown in from Florida two days before, and my body clock swore it was actually midmorning. I was wide-awake and intent on the job at hand. I saw the man I’d been waiting for immediately.

He was a large man. Maybe a shade over six feet, but big in other ways: big shoulders, big arms, big chest and waist. He was also big in the local criminal underworld, but still a few rungs from the top. He was dressed for purpose in a windcheater jacket: not a defence against the chill but to conceal the gun holstered beneath his left armpit. He was called Sean Chaney, a strong arm of the resident criminal fraternity. He looked half-asleep, which suited me fine.

As he moved by, I fell into step a dozen yards behind him. He didn’t glance at me, and wouldn’t be concerned if he did. All the homeless people here knew who he was, what he did for a living and didn’t hassle him for change. He walked alongside the Hyatt, a huge structure of tiered rooms and balconies to make the best of the view across the bay. The Embarcadero Centre was on our right; a three storied shopping mall that spanned several blocks of the city. Apart from security lighting all of the shops remained in darkness and there was no one else around. My boots scuffed the ground, and to me sounded like canon fire, but Chaney seemed oblivious and carried on to the corner of the hotel and took a left. Coming round the corner after him, I saw him check his watch and his pace picked up.

Valets on the hotel door watched Chaney stride past, but didn’t give me as much as a glance: it said something about human nature to me. There was a junction in the road here, and it was a boarding point for the cable cars that carried tourists up and down Nob Hill, but Chaney didn’t approach the stop but headed for the stairs down to the underground BART system. I counted to ten then followed down. He was already past the ticket machines heading for the southbound platform. There was no one else in sight, but I wasn’t worried. The big man was rubbing his eyes and yawning expansively. I fed coins into the machine, took my ticket and then shuffled towards the platform. This time Chaney did look at me, but it was a glancing blow that didn’t stick. He went back to yawning, turning away from me with uninterest. I slouched against a wall, at the opposite end of the platform.

The Bay Area Rapid Transport system is on the ball at all hours of the day and night, and it was little more than a minute before the train squealed into the station. Chaney was at the doors in a second, rocking on his heels while he waited for them to open. He squeezed inside even as the doors hissed open. I waited a few seconds more, then clambered aboard the second carriage along. There was a middle-aged Chinese woman sitting in my carriage and she gave me a brief fearful look, before quickly averting her eyes. She was sitting with a couple of bags on her lap and as I moved past her she pulled them tight to her chest like a shield. I cringed inwardly, thinking about how I’d frightened the woman, but it was neither the time nor the place to reassure her she was in no danger. The only person in danger on this train was Chaney.

The next carriage along was deserted.

I moved through it as the train pulled out of the station and began swaying along the tracks.

Coming to the next connecting doors, I paused.

Peeking through the glass I could see Chaney midway along the carriage. He was facing my way, but had taken out his cell phone and was involved in checking the screen for messages. He didn’t see me, and was totally oblivious of the other person who had entered the carriage from the far end. He’d obviously had it too easy of late and had lost the intrinsic paranoia necessary for a criminal.

My friend Jared Rington moved along the carriage with an easy pace, but even from this end I could see the muscles working in his jaw, an old knife scar standing out as a white slash against his tawny skin. Rink hadn’t gone to the trouble I had. He wasn’t disguised, and didn’t see the need. He wanted Chaney to know who was coming for him, and who his executioner was going to be. The only compromise to his usual colourful attire was a pair of black leather gloves. Chaney had his back to Rink, but my friend isn’t the type to do a hit from behind. Rink’s voice was muffled, but I still heard his sharp command: ‘Stand up you piece of shit.’

Chaney dropped his phone and went for his gun, already turning as he rose.

Rink struck him with the edge of his hand, a chop to the side of the big man’s neck. Uncontrolled the blow could kill, but Rink had tempered the force. It was still enough to stagger Chaney and while he was weakened, Rink took the gun from him with a practiced twist of the wrist. Chaney grunted something, continued his turn and tried to grapple for the gun. Rink hit him again, a sweeping elbow strike that contacted with Chaney’s face and knocked him back a few steps. Rink followed him, bringing up the Glock he’d liberated to point it directly at Chaney’s forehead.

Time I did something.

I hit the button and the door swept open.

As I entered the carriage my view of Rink was slightly obscured by Chaney’s thick body. I had a horrible feeling that Rink would shoot, and the bullet would go directly through Chaney’s skull and hit me. I sidestepped, placing myself in the open next to the exit doors. Rink was taller than Chaney, and I knew he’d seen me from the slight narrowing of his eyes. That was all the notice he gave me, though, because his attention was on the man he was about to kill.

I brought up my SIG Sauer P226 and pointed it at Chaney’s back. My other hand I held open to Rink.

‘Don’t do this, brother,’ I said to him. ‘Chaney’s a piece of shit, but he doesn’t deserve this.’

Rink didn’t even look at me. Nausea squirmed a passage through my gut.

‘Don’t,’ I said again.

‘What’re you going to do, Hunter?’ Rink’s eyes never left Chaney. ‘Shoot me?’

‘I don’t want to,’ I said.

‘That’s something, at least.’ Rink ignored me then and took a step nearer Chaney.

The enforcer reared back on his heels, bringing up his hands in a placating motion. ‘Whoa! What’s this all about?’

‘I’m about to kill you,’ my friend snarled.

‘Rink. Don’t do it.’ I hurried towards him. ‘Don’t cross the line, brother.’

‘It’s too late for that, Joe.’

I knew then that there was less than a heartbeat to spare.

I fired.

 

Chapter 3

Rink is more than a friend to me. He is more like a brother, and I love him as such. When he’s thinking straight he’d die for me, as I would for him. There’s no way on earth that I’d shoot him and he knew it. So I did the first thing that came to mind. I shot Sean Chaney instead.

I shot him to save his life.

My bullet struck him in his left thigh and he dropped like an ox in a slaughterhouse. He bellowed like one too, his hands going to the wound in his leg. The speed at which he’d collapsed saved him the bullet that Rink was about to put in his skull. My friend blinked over the top of the writhing man at me.

‘What the hell’d you do that for?’

‘To save you from making a big mistake.’

‘There’s no mistake.’ Rink turned the gun on the fallen enforcer, but I could see a flicker of doubt worming its way across his features.

By now I was alongside my friend and I put my hand on his wrist.

‘Trust me,’ I said.

He continued to train the gun on Chaney, but I could feel the doubt in his body now, and finally he allowed me to press the gun down.

‘It wasn’t Chaney,’ I said. ‘It wasn’t him or any of his guys.’

‘And you know that how?’

I flicked a cautionary nod. ‘Later, okay?’

At our feet the enforcer was sitting with his back against one of the bench seats. His jaw was set in a grimace of agony as he grasped at his wounded leg, and his eyes were brimming with fear as he watched us. He made a mistake of opening his mouth.

‘Who the fuck are you? Do you realise who you’re messing with?’

Rink rounded on him.

‘You’ve just got a goddamn reprieve, punk. Now shut your hole!’

Chaney looked at me. ‘You shot me, you bastard. You should’ve let your buddy kill me, ‘cause I’m gonna…’

‘Going to what?’ I glared down at him. ‘I barely scratched you. You’re an ungrateful piece of crap; I’ve just saved your life.’

‘Says who?’ Chaney struggled to get up, leaning on the bench with a blood-slicked hand. ‘The way I see it your buddy is too much of a pussy to shoot. If he was gonna do it, he’d have goddamn done it. Just wait ‘til I get up and—’

I kicked his support arm from under him. Chaney went down on his backside with a solid bump. Anger flared, shame at what he perceived as the ultimate humiliation. He began to struggle up. Rink and I shared a glance and it was just like old times, before all this started. I shrugged at him. Gave him the go ahead.

Rink turned up the corner of his mouth in a smile. Then he slapped the butt of the Glock against Chaney’s skull. The enforcer was out cold before he’d slumped all the way to the floor.

‘What now?’ Rink looked at me.

‘We get off at the next station and make ourselves scarce.’

‘Thought you’d maybe explain yourself first.’

‘There’s no time.’ I left Rink while I searched the floor and came back a moment later, pocketing the flattened round I’d put through Chaney’s leg.

Rink grunted. ‘That’s why I wore gloves and used his gun. No forensics to worry about.’

‘As if that would make a difference? Doesn’t look like you made an effort to avoid the CCTV cameras.’

‘They’d have seen a big guy with black hair, but only the top of my head. Could be one of a thousand dudes, even in this shirt.’ He tugged at the collar of his bright Hawaiian number that was only partly hidden by a black leather jacket. It would look like a warning beacon anywhere else but here: there was still a large contingent of hippies and arty types in San Francisco who sported much gaudier attire. Rink nodded at me. ‘I see you’re still dressing as classy as ever.’

I was pleased to hear the tongue in cheek insult; it meant my big friend was back, thinking a little clearer than before.

‘It’s academic now,’ I said, referring to the concern about forensics. ‘Chaney isn’t going to call the police. He didn’t die, and when he wakes up he’s going to realise how lucky he’s been. All that talk was just bluster. Fear. He’ll keep quiet. But that won’t mean a thing if we’re still standing round here when we reach the next stop.’

Rink crouched down and pushed the Glock into Chaney’s holster, then arranged his coat so that it was hidden from view. Then he followed me through the carriages, away from where the Chinese woman sat oblivious to what had just occurred. We were pulling into the next station at Montgomery Street and I could see that some bleary-eyed passengers were waiting on the platform.

‘What’s the time?’ I asked.

Rink calculated. ‘Has to be coming up six o’clock by now.’

‘Good. Some of the shops should be opening. Don’t know about you, Rink, but I need a strong cup of coffee.’

‘What you need is to get rid of that coat. It smells like someone took a crap in it.’

The doors opened and we had to stand aside to avoid a suited man who rushed aboard, already conducting business on his Blackberry. He didn’t give us so much as a glance and went for the nearest seat. We got off the train and moved for the exit stairs. The train was already moving away and, as it moved parallel to us, I glimpsed into the carriage where we’d left Chaney. He was still sound asleep. Probably he wouldn’t waken until the train reached the terminus at San Francisco International Airport. Wherever he’d been heading this morning, he was going to be late for his appointment.

I dumped the coat first chance I got. The jeans and boots should have gone in the Dumpster with it, but they were all I had with me. I threw the wool cap in with the rubbish, made do with smoothing down my hair. It was short so didn’t look too bad. The shirt and canvas jacket I’d worn beneath the coat weren’t filthy, so I looked reasonably dressed and wouldn’t be kicked out of the coffee shop we headed for. Rink was silent as we strode across a thoroughfare beginning to swell with foot traffic as people headed for their work places. Rink is the epitome of the strong, silent type—until he gets going—but this morning his silence was deeper than normal. I could feel it like a living thing, caged for now but ready to be let loose to ravage and tear.

I gave up smoking and hard liquor years ago, but the old habits had been replaced by my over-reliance on strong coffee. I ordered the largest cup on sale, got a fruit smoothie for Rink. The shop had only just opened its doors and the barista was overworked. As soon as he’d delivered our drinks he continued stocking the shelves we’d disturbed him from doing. That suited us: there were no other customers and we could speak in private. We took a table where we could see the entrance and out of the front window, so there’d be no surprises. It was an old habit I’d been unable to lose.

‘I saw you.’

‘Thought you might’ve,’ I said, cupping my drink with both palms. ‘But you were still going to go ahead with the hit?’

‘Thought you might try to stop me.’

‘I did.’

‘Yeah.’

‘If you were determined enough to kill Chaney there was nothing I could’ve done about it.’

Rink closed his eyes briefly. ‘No. But I’m glad you did. You said I made a mistake: I trust you. But you’d better tell me how or I’m going back for the punk.’

I took a long swallow of coffee. ‘Chaney is a thug; there’s no denying it. And I don’t doubt that he deserves the bullet you planned to put in him, but it wasn’t him.’

‘How can you be so sure?’

‘I went back and talked with your mom again, Rink.’

‘She told me it was Chaney.’

‘She was…uh, lying.’

Rink’s forehead creased, but it wasn’t at my suggestion that his mother was less than the symbol of virtue and goodness he believed, but that my words had struck a chord in him.

‘Not lying per se,’ I went on, ‘but guessing: putting two and two together and getting five. As you know, there had been some trouble with Chaney’s lot throwing their weight around, so it was only natural that your mom should mention him to the police, and to us when we got here. But she’s had more time to think and she doesn’t believe that Chaney’s the one responsible any more. For a start, she doesn’t believe that a clown like him could’ve done what he did.’

‘No,’ Rink said. ‘Now that I’ve met him and tested his mettle, I don’t think so either. But it doesn’t make a difference to me, Hunter. Someone is responsible and I’m gonna find him. And when I do, even you won’t be able to stop me next time.’

‘As if I’m going to try? I’ll be right there beside you, brother.’

Rink hadn’t even looked at his smoothie until now, and he chugged it down. ‘You went back to see my mom. How is she?’

‘Hurting. Physically and mentally. She was more concerned about you running off the way you did than anything else. She was frightened that she sent you after the wrong man and asked that I stop you from making the biggest mistake of your life.’

‘Chaney wouldn’t have been a loss…to anyone.’

‘Maybe not, but the way you went about it, there’d have been only one suspect. Your mom didn’t want to see you going to prison for the wrong man.’

‘That’d put a wrench in the works…no way I’d find the right one then.’ Rink squinted at me. ‘I take it the disguise wasn’t for my sake?’

‘I had to get close to Chaney in order to find you. Like many, he’s blind to anyone he deems beneath himself. It worked. I was able to find him, and he led me to you. Had a feeling that you’d do him on the early train where there was little chance of collateral damage. But I wasn’t positive and decided I’d shadow him for as long as it took you to make a move. Would’ve made life much easier if you hadn’t done a runner from the hospital, or if you’d answered your bloody phone when I called you.’

He curled a lip at my ear bashing. Usually the tables were turned the opposite direction. Then he grew melancholy, and his hooded eyes sparkled with unshed tears. ‘Didn’t want to bring you down with me, brother.’

‘Jesus, Rink! It’s your dad we’re talking about here. I want to avenge his murder as much as you do.’


Pre-Order the Kindle edition for $2.99 until June 1, 2015


 

Posted in Matt Hilton | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Preview of RULES OF HONOR by Matt Hilton with a Limited Time Pre-Order Price

12

May 2015

Big Numbers, 1st Austin Carr Mystery by Jack Getze, Now Just 99¢!

Big Numbers by Jack Getze

If you’re one of those readers who absolutely, positively must start with the first book in a series, we have great news for you. You can purchase the first mystery in the Austin Carr series, Big Numbers by Jack Getze, for just 99¢ on Kindle and Nook. This is a limited time promotion, so don’t miss this opportunity to pick up a book that Edgar Award-winning author T.J. MacGregor called “darkly comic, with an engaging protagonist.” Links: Amazon (http://amzn.to/1EBRsQA) and B&N (http://bit.ly/1Fcnurk).

More about Big Numbers

Divorced dad Austin Carr wakes up every day in a beat-up camper, parked on someone else’s private property. Why? Because his alimony and child support payments were established by New Jersey’s family court system when his income was double, and for the last two years he has failed to earn the legally mandated monthly nut. He’s had his savings drained, his Maxima repossessed, his salary attached, and his visiting rights suspended. He bought the twelve-year-old Chevy pick-up with the rusty camper for $800 last month because another landlord tossed his butt in the street.

Will stretching the rules, his own morals, and the boundaries of common sense raise the cash needed to get his kids back? Or will his big mouth and bad behavior set him up for a nasty double-cross?

See if Austin can redeem himself and win back his children.

Posted in Jack Getze | Comments Off on Big Numbers, 1st Austin Carr Mystery by Jack Getze, Now Just 99¢!

7

May 2015

Preview of OVER THEIR HEADS by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner with a Limited Time Pre-Order Price

OTHx1000The drugs are missing and four lives are about to collide.

Clyde just wanted to make a little extra cash on the side to raise his new baby. Now his life and the lives of his wife and newborn daughter are in jeopardy.

Brent just wanted to do his job and be left alone. Now he’s in a race against time for his life.

Sean just wanted to escape the crime he committed in Detroit. Now he’s stumbled into another. The money he embezzled is nothing compared the load of narcotics that fell into his lap.

And Skeeter? Well, Skeeter wants the drugs back, and he’ll use any means necessary to get them.

When these four are let loose on a mad scramble to locate the drugs, they cut a path of mayhem and bloodshed across Virginia. Inept would-be criminals clash with ruthless drug dealers in a violent weekend where no one is safe.

The only certainty: Everyone is in over their heads.

 


 

Praise for Over Their Heads:

“Hard boiled pulp, hot off the press. The writing team of JB Kohl and Eric Beetner give the middle finger to polite crime writing and splatter the pages of Over Their Heads with foul mouthed, two-fisted action delivered in a hail of bullets. Neo-noir, transgressive fans will cheer. Drawing room mystery readers may need smelling salts. Don’t say you weren’t warned.”

—Anonymous-9, author of Hard Bite and Bite Harder

Over Their Heads is a stripped down hot-rod of a novel. JB Kohl and Eric Beetner keep things fast and tight, with a gasp or a laugh on pretty much every page as an assortment of would-be badasses try to track down some missing drugs. It’s a comedy of errors, scored with the sound of gunfire.”

—Jake Hinkson, author of The Big Ugly

Over Their Heads  is a real tour-de-force from the writers that brought you One too Many Blows to the Head.  A full-blown crime noir that will keep you on the edge of your seat!”

—Bill Craig, author of the Marlow Key West Mysteries

and the Decker P.I. mysteries


Pre-Order the Kindle edition for only $1.49 until June 1, 2015


 

1

CLYDE

If Madeline didn’t go into labor we’d be eating steak tonight. In a restaurant. Because I would have enough cash to take her out for a change. I’d have money for dinner and clothes and a vacation and enough left over for the baby’s college and graduate school—anything else our kid could want.

I rummaged through my sock drawer for a pair that matched. A wife at nine-and-a-half-months pregnant didn’t feel the best. In the past Madeline had been meticulous about organizing my sock drawer, folding and pairing them in neat rows. Those days were gone now, along with the days of creased khakis and starched shirts. My kind and beautiful wife had changed to someone pasty, swollen, and, yeah I’m gonna say it . . . bitchy.

For now, at least, she was asleep, hand resting over her protruding belly, mouth slightly open. In these moments, before she woke up and started to cry over her swollen ankles and nag me about the long hours I spent at the rental lot, before she opened her mouth and swore at me and the dick that happens to reside between my legs, which was clearly responsible for getting her in this predicament in the first place, marriage vows or no . . . in these moments when it was just me digging in my sock drawer for a mate to the only one I could find, when I picked up my khakis from the floor and shook out yesterday’s wrinkles . . . I would watch her sleep and she was just my wife, the woman I fell in love with.

I saw this movie once. It was one of those chick flicks I took her to on our last anniversary. Normally I don’t go in for that sort of thing, but it was our anniversary and that’s a time she tends to get sentimental and I’m almost always guaranteed sex. So I figure on those nights the least I can do is take her to a movie she wants to see, even if I have zero interest in it. I don’t even remember what the movie was about. Well, it was about a couple, that’s for sure, but the thing I remember is that the woman was pregnant. I mean hugely pregnant. And in one scene, the guy in that film bends over his just-about-to-pop pregnant wife and kisses her stomach. When that happened on the screen, next to me, in the theater, Madeline sighed and put her hand over her heart, and her breath hitched just the tiniest bit like it does when she is just about to cry or like when she watches those dog food commercials. That scene really got to her. I always remembered that moment, the moment in that movie when Madeline was moved by something so simple. We didn’t know it at the time, but she was already seven weeks pregnant and when we found out a week later and realized it was really, really real, I remembered that scene and played it out a hundred times in my head. I knew there would come a time when I’d lean over her and kiss her belly because it would make her happy. And, I don’t know, I guess I imagined myself whispering something profound and kind to her. So I had been biding my time, waiting until she was tired and heavy and hating being pregnant, because all the books told me that was exactly how it was going to be. I wanted it to be perfect. I guess the time never seemed perfect.

Because today I watched her with my socks in my hand, and just felt . . . tired. So I turned and walked out. I tiptoed so she wouldn’t wake up and I shut the door behind me as quietly as I could. Hollywood and that damn movie could kiss my ass. And so could the goddamn actress with the rail thin legs and a belly with no stretch marks. Madeline was a real woman. Despite it all, despite being Misery’s Deity at the moment, she was a real woman, the mother of my child. She was mine. And while this filled me with pride and gratitude, mostly these days I was filled with fear.

I toed through the pile of shoes at the front door, settling on a pair of bland loafers, and mentally ran over the day’s plans in my head.

ONE: Get to work, open the rental lot. If I was honest, this was my favorite part of every day. I liked the lot. It was mine. I had named it after myself, hadn’t I? Clyde McDowd Rentals was, in a way, my first kid. And now, after marriage and with a real, actual kid on the way, it was the one thing that was entirely mine. It was clean, organized, filled with files and the smell of the pink cleaning solution the janitor used late at night. It was white tile floor and fluorescent lights. It was the roar of airplanes taking off and landing at Richmond International. It was business men and families. And somewhere along the way, it started to bring in a lot more money than it should have. Which is why I really, really needed to be at work on time today.

I looked down at the scuffed loafer I had pulled from the pile of shoes. How could one couple own so many shoes? Even my shoes were something Madeline picked out for me. The house. The carpet. The paint. The towels in the bathroom. But Clyde McDowd Rentals? Not so, baby. Not so. I drifted into the kitchen and sank into one of the rickety wooden chairs at our vintage table and pulled on a sock.

TWO: Check to make sure the Chevy Tahoe was ready to go. The ceiling seams needed to be perfect, the packets had to be laying right, behind a soft, thin layer of sponge. I always put a pack of Winstons in the glove compartment for the driver. Never hurts to kiss a little ass, just in case. I froze with the sock halfway on. Shit. I forgot the Winstons.

THREE: Stop and pick up Winstons.

The mattress in the bedroom groaned as Madeline pushed herself up. The giantess hath awakened, I thought, not unkindly. Hell, if Madeline had been her normal, petite, good-humored self, she would have laughed too. And some day, I was sure I’d tell her my vision of her at nine months pregnant—an angry, towering woman crushing all in her path, and she would laugh and punch me in the arm and say she loved me.

I’d tell her about all of this one day and not just how grouchy she was. I’d tell her about everything I’d done for her, about everything I sacrificed, the risks I took, the plans I made for us, for our family.

Today was not going to be that day.

Today I shoved my feet in my shoes and popped a piece of bread in the toaster. I heard her approach from the other room and pasted a smile on my face. She opened the door and shuffled into the kitchen, her legs swollen, beautiful dark hair cascading down her back. My smile became a real one. No matter what, it was easy to love Madeline. All of it for you, I thought. “Want coffee?” I asked.

She didn’t answer but reached to the cupboard above the coffee pot, stomach resting on the counter, hands fumbling for filters and coffee beans. “Let me do that,” I said. “You sit down. Put your feet up.”

“It won’t help,” she said. “Nothing does. I’m a house.” She turned to look at me and I caught a glimpse of the clock on the stove at the same time I caught the look on her face. 7:45 on the clock. Worry on her face. Car lot opened at 8:00. I had been told to expect the driver any time after 8:10.

Christ on a cracker.

“You’re not a house,” I said, moving to hug her. She allowed the touch and rested her head on my shoulder. Her hair smelled like that really good shampoo she uses. 7:46.

FOUR: Move Chevy Tahoe to the back part of the lot under the maple that tended to shit sap on cars all day long. No one ever wanted to drive a sap-speckled car. It was another reason I put the Winstons in the glove box.

Madeline lifted her head from my shoulder and tried to smile. Then she burst into tears. I walked her to the table and sat her down. 7:47.

“I don’t know,” she said, her face in her hands. “I just don’t know. I feel like this is it. Like this kid is coming out of me today. I’m so tired.” She slumped forward and rested her head on her forearms. “I am not up to this today. My back hurts. And why didn’t we find out the sex?”

Because you didn’t want to. You said it was a good thing to be surprised. You said we wanted to experience the wonder of birth like they did in the old days. “We just didn’t,” I said. I ran a hand over her hair and kissed the top of her head. Then I pulled the filters from the cupboard, poured water in the coffee pot, and spilled coffee beans on the floor. 7:50.

Madeline looked at the beans. “I can’t clean that up. I can’t bend down and clean that up.” She sniffled and started crying again.

“You don’t have to, babe. I’ve got it.”

“Those are expensive beans, too.”

FIVE: Close shop doors at 5:00 p.m. and wait for instructions. At some point this evening, I would receive directions to the envelope containing a debit card and access to an account with my money. It was safer than cash and smarter, and I had done it a few times before already. This time was big, though. This was the last one, the one that would set us up forever.

I swept up the beans and tossed them in the trash. 7:52. I was late. There was no way I’d make it there in time.

I buttered the toast and spread peanut butter on it. Then I set it in front of Madeline and kissed her on the forehead. “I’ve got to make a call. I’ll be right back.”

I knew I should offer to stay with her, to sit and hold her hand and stroke her hair and reassure her. If she only knew that this was all for her. I stepped out onto the front stoop and auto dialed Brent’s cell.

There was fumbling as he picked up and a frazzled, “Yeah.”

“You at the office?”

I heard him clear his throat. “In the car in the Starbuck’s drive-through. Want anything?”

“Need you to open.”

“Sure.”

“No. Listen. I need to you to open. This is important.”

I listened as Brent ordered a Venti Caramel Macchiato and then came back on the line. “You sure you don’t want something?”

“Nothing.”

“Right. Open the lot. Got it.”

“Shut the fuck up and listen to me, Brent. There’s a Chevy Tahoe near the front. I need you to jockey it to the back under the maple tree. Got it?”

“Chevy. Maple. Tahoe. That’s a shitty tree. What do you got against that car?”

I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Just do it. Don’t fuck up. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

I could almost hear Brent shrug through the phone. I had no idea what was worse. Having Madeline pissed at me or trusting the car arrangements to Brent. It’s like asking how do you want to die? Fire or drawn and quartered?

 

 

2

BRENT

What the hell was up his ass? Clyde used to be such a great boss. I guessed it was the kid that had him on edge recently. I mean, I took the job because the hours were good, the pressure was low and the policy on smoking was lax.

I watched all those Hertz and Enterprise jerks running around in their matching shirts and scripted sales pitches and I thanked sweet Jesus that wasn’t me. Still never thought I’d be renting cars out at the airport. Beats digging ditches, as my dad always said.

I tried to understand what Clyde was going through though. A baby. That’s heavy. And him being a business owner. Entrepreneur. Sole breadwinner. I know I’m not ready for that yet.

I kept feeling like something had been up for a while now, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. He would get all sweaty about once a month, giving orders on certain cars like this Tahoe now. When he told me his wife was pregnant I put two and two together. Lately, seemed like they added up to five.

Not my business, though. We were friends, sure, but his life was his and my life was mine. To each his own, as my mom used to say. They said a lot of stuff, my parents.

I opened the rental counter only five minutes late. Not bad for me. I’d almost finished refilling the brochure holders and the maps to Colonial Williamsburg, when the first customers of the day came in.

A family on vacation, cranky from the flight which must have left wherever they came from while it was still dark outside. I’d be cranky, too. A mom with short, sensible hair and twenty extra pounds around the middle. A dad with a bald top and a ring of sad looking wisps circling the rim of his skull. He toted about eighty extra pounds around his belt line. Eight a.m. and already sweating like a hog.

They pulled enough bags for a two-week trip and two kids who looked like puberty had run them down in the street driving a Sherman tank. A boy and a girl. They looked to be in the midst of a contest for which one could grow the most pimples. A dead tie so far, from what I could see.

“Morning. How can I help you?” I said. First one of the day gets my special “helpful guy” treatment.

Dad stepped in front of his depressing family and took charge. One look at him and I could tell the only time in his life he got to take charge of anything was with a pudgy, given-up wife and two kids destined to live out the rest of their lives waiting for their awkward phase to end. Congrats, Pops, you’re king of the royal family of kill-me-if-it-ever-happens-to-me.

“We have a reservation. Griffin.”

All business, this guy. Better than the chit chat of some jerk who got off an eight-hour flight and needed to vent about the shitty flight attendants and sub-standard food.

“Okay,” I said. “Let me pull up your reservation.”

I typed his name into the computer and his page came on screen. Another good thing about being with a small, independent rental company is we can pretty much count all the rentals on two hands in a day. There’s never a lot of searching for lost files around here.

“Here we go. Minivan, right?” As if I needed to look that up in the computer.

“Yes. Minivan. For two weeks.” His wife fanned him with a folded up map. I hoped his face didn’t turn any redder or I’d start to worry about the old guy having a heart attack in the lobby. The two sad sack kids stared blankly, the boy mouth-breathing through thick braces.

“That’s mileage included,” he sort of asked, sort of stated.

“Yes. Mileage included.” I’m sure it made him feel like a real provider, a real hunter/gatherer to this family of Cro-Magnons.

“Dad, I’m hungry,” the boy said.

“Yeah, me too,” the girl followed up. Really? These lard-asses hungry? You don’t say.

“We’ll get breakfast as soon as we’re out of here and on the road,” he said in that typical annoyed dad way. I bet he couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel so he could threaten them with the old, “If you don’t knock it off I’ll turn this car around and . . .” But if they were at an airport I doubted he was gonna drive them all the way home. Mileage or no mileage included.

“Where y’all from?” I asked while the rental form printed.

“Detroit,” he said, clipped and sharp to let me know that was all the information I would be getting out of him.

I nodded. I figured I didn’t need to tell him what a shithole he lived in, so I left it there.

“Here we are,” I said. I read him all the particulars; he declined the insurance. They all do. Anyone renting from us was a cheap bastard, so they all turned down the insurance. I got his info and offered to do the walk through of the van with him.

“I think I know how a minivan works,” he said.

“It’s more just to check for any damage to the vehicle so you won’t be liable upon return. And there may be a few things in the newer models you may not be familiar with.”

“Da-a-a-ad,” the boy said, his impatience showing like the big red zit on his nose.

“That’s fine, just tell me what spot it’s in and we’ll get going. We still have a drive ahead of us to get to the beach.”

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t let my dad pick us up,” the wife said.

“I’m not gonna rely on your parents to get us around. What if we want to take a day trip?” He didn’t hide his annoyance and I knew this was an argument that started back in Detroit.

“What day trips are we gonna take, Sean?”

“We at least want the freedom, Linda.” He spat out her name with such a fermented venom. That one word, her name, had been marinated in all the years of marriage and all the variations on this argument they’d ever had, which I took to be many.

“You’re in space twenty-three,” I said, still in my early morning fake cheeriness. Besides, the Griffin family provided me with some great theater to start the day. The Fighting Griffins starring in Sad Suburban Vacation: A Tragedy.

“Thanks,” he said and a bead of sweat broke loose from his empty forehead and ran down his nose to splash on my counter. If he saw it, he ignored it. The whole wheezing, squeaking mass of them turned as one and rolled out pushing, pulling and toting luggage almost as square as they were.

I sat back down, wiped the drop of sweat away with a napkin and lit my first smoke of the day, thankful my life wasn’t as soul-crushing and shitty as that guy and his dumb-ass family. For me, right then behind the rental counter on a sunny Virginia day—payday no less—life was looking pretty good.

 

 

3

CLYDE

Despite being late, despite the forgotten cigarettes and the ten minute wait at the Gas ’N Gulp to pick them up, despite Madeline’s tears, I smiled when I pulled into the lot. It was a scorcher of a day already. Jets were screaming a half mile away at the airport, and my lot was ready for renters.

The lot had it all: compacts, sub-compacts, convertibles, SUVs, luxury sedans, mid-size sedans and coupes, luxury coupes, mini vans, and full size vans. I had been considering adding RV rentals as well, but it was likely to be a couple of years before I was feeling ambitious enough for that. I needed to do more homework on the demand, and with the kid soon to be born, I wasn’t eager to undertake any additional responsibility. Besides, I was spread a little too thin as it was.

I didn’t look for the Tahoe under the maple. It was early and Brent would have parked it where I told him. He might be a grumbler, but he could be counted on to do what he was told. When I walked in, he stood at the twin filing cabinets in the front of the office, stuffing a rental agreement into a drawer.

“Remember your alphabet,” I said. “A, B, C.”

“Yeah. I got it.” He gave a half smile. He acted pissed, but he was really shitty when it came to filing stuff. I kept him around because, in addition to doing what he was told, he didn’t ask many questions and he didn’t seem too interested in what I did when I wasn’t standing right next to him. In fact, he seemed to try really hard to avoid me sometimes, which was just fine these days. The less we saw of one another, the better.

“Anyone come in?”

He gave me a gesture that was half shrug, half nod. “Family from Detroit. Gave’em a minivan.”

I smiled. “Historic triangle, Busch Gardens, or Civil War memorials?”

He shrugged and picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated he kept under the counter. “Don’t know. Don’t care.”

I wanted to tell him to do something besides stand there, but the truth was we were a tight ship. We filed everything right away, kept things well-ordered, had a cleaning lady come in every night to spruce things up and keep the tiles their whitest.

An airport shuttle pulled up and a couple stepped off, a woman in an Ally McBeal knock off suit and stiletto heels. The guy wore a dark suit and designer sunglasses and gave me one of those chin jerks that is supposed to be a nod. I head jerked back at him. “Good morning,” I said.

“Need a sports car.” He smiled. The woman acted bored and drummed her fingers on the counter. I pegged them as business associates and bed partners. She wore a wedding ring. He didn’t. Not my business, but I always liked to speculate anyway.

My cell phone pinged, so I gestured for Brent to take over and I stepped to the back to answer.

“Hello?”

“It’s time. I told you it was going to be soon. I need you to come and get me.” Madeline was puffing out short breaths, the breathy huffs were loud in my ears.

“How far apart are the contractions?”

“I don’t know. Seven minutes? Five? Just get here.”

I hung up and gestured for Brent to step away from the couple.

“Madeline is in labor,” I said.

“Cool. Congrats, man. Go on. I got it here.”

“Yeah. Look. I need you to get that Tahoe to the right guy today. He’s a VIP and he wants that car.”

“The one under the maple?”

“Yeah. Look. Make sure he gets it.” I laid the Winstons on the counter. “Put these in the glove box.”

“Fine.” He turned back to the couple.

I grabbed his arm. “Brent, listen. It is very important that car goes to the right customer. Do you understand?”

“Yes. Geez. I got it. Tahoe. Tree shit. Right guy. Go. Have a baby. I’ve got work to do.”

I stood there for a minute, wondering how angry Madeline would be if I waited until the Tahoe was off the lot before picking her up. Brent was back at the counter with the couple, his head bent over the paper forms I still hadn’t gotten around to computerizing yet. The Tahoe was where it was supposed to be, Brent would make sure the smokes were in the glove box, and Madeline was in labor. Shit.

I walked back outside, climbed into my car, and drove toward home.

 

 

4

BRENT

Clyde left in a hot panic. Can’t say I blame him. I can’t even believe he had space in his head for some special reservation when his wife is in labor, but I guess if it were my name on the business, I’d want everything to go right, too.

Before the dust even settled from Clyde’s sprint out the door, the Griffin family came back. Same dumpy Midwestern foursome pulling their same beige luggage and their same fat asses. This couldn’t be good.

“Mr. Griffin, you’re back,” I said, trying to be cheery before the shit storm I knew was coming my way.

“That car you rented me,” he said. “It smells.” Then he added, “Bad,” in case I thought he’d come back to compliment us on the floral scent of our air fresheners. We don’t use air fresheners. You get what you get.

“I’m so sorry about that.”

“Smells like ass,” the boy said. His mother immediately shushed him with a small slap to the back of the head. I could see the embarrassment on her face for her son and her husband. I could imagine the argument in the van before turning around, her all, “It’s fine, just drive,” and him all, “I won’t pay for a car that smells like ass.”

“We want a new one,” he said. He stuck out his chin, such as it was, and acted entitled. I took a deep breath, working hard to keep it together.

“Of course. No problem.” I sounded less like a smiley glad hand and more like a waiter about to go back to the kitchen and spit in his food. I checked the roster of vehicles, of which there aren’t many on our lot. No more minivans. “I’m afraid, Mr. Griffin,” I started. I saw him already tense up, planning his rebuttal. “That was our last minivan.”

“That’s not my problem.” His face glowed red and tiny beads of sweat dotted his forehead all the way back across his dome. “The van you gave me smells like something died in the air conditioning unit and it’s obvious someone was smoking in there. We specifically asked for a non-smoking car.”

He hadn’t, since that wasn’t one of our options, but the customer is always right. Often times a humongous dick, but always right.

“Well,” I said as I checked the list of cars. “I can give you a four door sedan.”

“No, that won’t do. We need the storage. Can you not see the bags we have with us?”

“Sean . . .,” his wife tried to calm him down, but not trying very hard in case he turned his anger on her. She knew the drill.

“No, Linda, we won’t be treated like this. This is our vacation. I’m not driving around in a car that smells like a public toilet and I’m not driving around in some Japanese shoebox. We’re from goddamn Detroit for Christ sake.”

“Kids, you come with me,” Linda said as she ushered the kids away from Daddy’s tantrum.

I balled up my fists, let them loose again and tried talking myself out of using them on this jerk wad. I promised Clyde I wouldn’t have another incident like that again. The last guy I punched sued us. Almost won too, if he hadn’t been drunk. After that, Clyde installed the security camera, but I think that was as much to check up on me than any rude customers.

“I want that one,” he said. He pointed a fat finger at the black Chevy Tahoe I hadn’t had a chance to move yet.

“I do have an SUV you can have, Mr. Griffin. Let me just get it from around back and run it through the washer—”

“I want that one.” God, throw a diaper on this guy and he’d be a three hundred pound baby.

“That one is already reserved.”

“Again, not my problem. You said you had another one, give it to them. I’ve already been delayed enough. I’m not going to sit around your shitty airport while you wash another stink bomb of a car when a perfectly good, clean one is right fucking there.”

I saw the mom put a hand over one of each kid’s ears.

I wanted to punch this guy more than I’ve ever wanted to punch someone before in my life, but not more than I wanted to keep my job, so fuck it. Let him have the damn thing. The sooner he left, the sooner I could wash up the other Tahoe and give Clyde’s special repeat customer guy a twin of the Tahoe outside.

“You’re right,” I said. The thing they all want to hear. “I’ll change the paperwork for you, no need to sign anything else. You have a nice day.” I lifted the keys from the desk where Clyde had set them and traded Mr. Griffin for the minivan keys, then I secretly wished for the Tahoe to blow a tire, run off into a ditch, catch fire and trap him and his fat fucking family inside the burning wreckage where they could all sizzle to death like the chubby little sausage links they were.

I smiled the whole time I handed over the keys, but as soon as he turned his back I gave him the finger. I made sure the security camera could see it.


Pre-Order the Kindle edition for only $1.49 until June 1, 2015


Posted in Eric Beetner, JB Kohl | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Preview of OVER THEIR HEADS by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner with a Limited Time Pre-Order Price

19

Apr 2015

Circling the Runway by J.L. Abramo, New from Down & Out Books

Circling the Runway by J.L. Abramo

The new Jake Diamond mystery from J.L. Abramo, CIRCLING THE RUNWAY, is published today by Down & Out Books.

“Jake Diamond is back and it feels like the return of an old friend. One of my all-time favorite PI series,” says Steve Hamilton, Edgar Award-winning author of The Lock Artist. “CIRCLING THE RUNWAY is the best yet.”

In this fourth entry of the series, Private Investigator Jacob Diamond and San Francisco Detective Sergeant Roxton Johnson are famous for not getting along. Cats and dogs. Oil and water. Liston and Ali. Jake and Rocky.

When an assistant district attorney is murdered in his high-rise apartment building, and Johnson suspects his lieutenant may have something to do with it, he can think of no one else to turn to for help — no one he can trust — except Jake Diamond.

If the mismatched duo can avoid stepping on each other’s toes long enough — they may be able to stop circling the runway and land on the villain’s doorstep.

Lieutenant Laura Lopez, Detective Ray Boyle, Joey Clams, Vinnie Strings and Darlene Roman are all back in the first new Jake Diamond escapade since COUNTING TO INFINITY.

CIRCLING THE RUNWAY is available in trade paperback and ebook formats.

More praise for CIRCLING THE RUNWAY:

“Think it is impossible to find a new take on the wise-cracking San Francisco PI? Meet Jake Diamond and think again. Jake and his crew — both the good guys and the bad guys — are sharp and smart, convincing and complex.” — SJ Rozan, Edgar Award-winning author (as Sam Cabot) of Skin of the Wolf.

“J.L. Abramo’s Circling the Runway offers the swagger and strut of Raymond Chandler, the skintight plotting of James M. Cain and smart-ass one-line humor smacking of Mickey Spillane. ” — Jack Getze, author of Big Money and Big Mojo.

“In Circling the Runway, J.L. Abramo is shooting at us again — and he’s doing it from every shadow and hidden doorway, from every window and passing car. And damned if every bullet doesn’t hit its mark perfectly. ” — Trey Barker, author of Death is Not Forever and Exit Blood.

“J.L. Abramo’s Circling the Runway takes up where Black Mask boys like Hammett, Gardner, and Carroll John Daly left off. It’s loaded with tough guys and hard-boiled action — emphasis on the hard.” — David Housewright , Edgar Award-winning author of Unidentified Woman #15.

“Jake Diamond returns after a ten-year hiatus, and his reappearance is well worth the wait. Abramo offers yet another smart, funny and action packed installment to his award-winning series with Circling the Runway.” — The Denver Review.

Posted in Down and Out Books, J.L. Abramo | Comments Off on Circling the Runway by J.L. Abramo, New from Down & Out Books